20 May 2022, 19:27

UN alarmed as 18 million face Sahel food crisis

GENEVA, May 20, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - The United Nations warned Friday that up to 
18 million people in the Sahel face severe food insecurity, with rations 
being cut due to funding shortages.

The UN's World Food Programme (WFP) said that conflict, the Covid-19 
pandemic, climate change and rising costs were colliding to put basic meals 
out of reach for millions of people in Africa's semi-arid sub-Saharan belt.

WFP said rations had already been cut in some affected areas and faced 
further cuts unless international donors step up with more money.

"Up to 18 million people in Africa's Sahel region will face severe food 
insecurity over the next three months -- the highest number since 2014," Jens 
Laerke, spokesman for the UN's humanitarian agency OCHA, told reporters.

"In the Sahel, 7.7 million children under the age of five are expected to 
suffer from malnutrition. 1.8 million are severely malnourished and if aid 
operations are not scaled up, this number could reach 2.4 million by the end 
of this year.

"The situation has reached alarming levels in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and 
Niger, where people will experience emergency levels of food insecurity 
during the lean season between June and August."

The UN has released $30 million from its Central Emergency Response Fund for 
the four countries.

- Rations cut -

The region is experiencing some of its driest conditions since 2011.

WFP spokesman Tomson Phiri said needs were sky-high but resources were at 

He said the number of food insecure people had increased by 41 percent in 
Mali, 82 percent in Mauritania and 91 percent in Niger compared to 2021.

In Burkina Faso, WFP rations are at 75 percent in the areas hardest to reach 
and most food insecure, while they are at 50 percent in other sites.

In Chad, low funding levels have seen WFP reduce emergency rations for 
refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) to 50 percent since June, 
said Phiri.

"If additional contributions are not received, as indicated, we will have no 
choice but to reduce rations even further from July 2022," he told reporters.

Russia's war in Ukraine is also exacerbating the situation.

Food prices were already increasing sharply before the conflict, but its 
impact on global food, fuel and fertiliser supply chains could drive food 
costs up even further, the WFP said.

The lack of fertiliser could compromise the recovery of agricultural 
production in 2022, the agency added.

It was targeting assistance to 7.15 million people between June and September 
and aiming to reach the most acutely food insecure households, refugees and