UN:Poor harvests, droughts cause nearly 10 million Africans to face ‘extreme’ hunger
The United Nations World Food Program said recently that hunger has increased in the belt of Africa, and some 10 million people are facing extreme hunger.
The worsening situation was blamed on drought and poor harvests in the Eastern Sahel region of West Africa, one of the most destitute regions in the world, the UN News Center said.
Thomas Yanga, WFP Regional Director for West Africa, said that despite efforts by governments, humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organizations, the situation in Niger, Chad, eastern Mali and northern Cameroon is critical, UN News Center said.
In Niger, some say the growing food crisis could be worse than the one that struck the country in 2005, when aid organizations treated tens of thousands of children for malnutrition, according to the Associated Press.
Niger has had severe droughts for centuries, as the Sahel cuts through it and separates it from Nigeria’s lush farmlands.
Normally, Niger’s Gadabeji Reserve is rich in grass and food for nomads and their cattle, but last year’s drought killed everything and the cattle are weak and skinny.
The drought has caused herders to break from their usual travel route and go in all directions for food, the AP said.
Some go to Nigeria to beg on the streets. Others stay with their cattle, hoping for rain. Still others bring their cows to Dakoro, a large nearby city with a market. And then there are those who die along the road or in trucks along the way, the AP said.
Mothers walk their children some 18 miles to reach one of two aid centers run by Doctors Without Borders. Barbara Maccagno, the agency’s medical coordinator in Niger, said the two stations now see about 1,000 children a week, and in recent week, admissions have doubled, the AP said.
The WFP said it has a $96 million shortfall for a program it planned for 1.5 million people in the worst-hit areas of Niger, the AP said.
In Chad, malnutrition is beyond the danger point, and many Chadians have gone as far as Libya to search for food. UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes said, “If we do not act now or as quickly as possible, there is a chance the food crisis will become a disaster,” according to the AP.
In Cameroon, the previous year’s cereal harvest in the north fell by 20 per cent, and flooded valleys that are water sources for cattle dried up earlier than usual. As a result, the WFP launched an emergency operation to feed 339,000 people from next month until April 2011, the UN News Center said.
In Mali, some 258,000 people who are most at risk due to drought and poor harvests are currently receiving emergency food assistance from the Government, WFP and humanitarian partners, according to the UN News Center.
Holmes appealed for more resources. He also said it was necessary to tackle the root causes of the recurring food crisis in the area, according to the UN News Center.