malnutrition

Some humanitarian organisations have raised the alarm over reports of food security crisis in Africa, particularly in the West and Central regions of the continent.

In a recent report, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said one quarter of the continent’s 346 million people struggle to feed.

It is understood, according to the ICRC findings, that ‘millions of families skip meals every day’, an alarming hunger situation that risks intensifying in the coming months.

In fact, the West and Central Africa Nutrition working group recently noted that an estimated 6.3 million children aged six to 59 months will suffer from wasting in six Sahel countries in 2022, putting the lives of at least 900,000 children at risk.

The group, which includes Action Against Hunger (ACF), Save the Children, Concern, United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), Première Urgence Internationale (PUI), and the World Health Organisation (WHO), called on donors and partners to urgently increase their support to respond to the immediate nutrition needs of the affected children.

Based on expert analysis, conflict, drought, rising food prices, increases in the cost of fuel and lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic are the causes of food crisis in Africa.

In March 2022, the ICRC said Somalia was the most severely affected of the Horn of Africa countries facing drought; noting that crops had failed, water levels were depleted, and livestock lost.

‘This is a disaster going largely unnoticed. Millions of families are going hungry and children are dying because of malnutrition’, the ICRC Head, Global Operations, Dominik Stillhart, said.

‘We are scaling up our operations in countries like Somalia, Kenya, Nigeria and Burkina Faso and many others to try and help as many people as we can, but the number of people going without food and water is staggering’.

As conflicts continue to spread across Central and West Africa, population displacement and limited access to social services have led to the spike in child malnutrition across the regions.

Available data shows that the situation could further deepen in the next lean season with almost 11.3 million people, including children, expected to be in urgent need of food assistance.

‘As conflicts, insecurity, socio-economic crisis and recurrent extreme climatic events in the region continue to deteriorate and further aggravate the nutrition of children, we need to shift to “business unusual” to address their needs in a sustainable way’, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Marie-Pierre Poirier, said in a statement.

‘While treatment remains imperative to save the lives of children most severely affected, we must shift the paradigm and focus on scaling interventions to prevent malnutrition, especially in the most affected locations.

‘The time has come to address the root causes of malnutrition of children in the region with determination and urgency’.

The humanitarian organisations noted that a multi-sectoral approach is needed to address the multiple underlying vulnerabilities to resolve the nutrition crisis in the region.

Photo source: Vannette Tolbert/WFP

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