• Dakar / Geneva, 16 March 2012 -

    UNICEF is warning that there is little time left to stave off a disaster facing more than a million children aged below five in the Sahel region of Africa. The dry, ‘lean’ season in the eight affected countries is imminent. For UNICEF, this will be marked by rising numbers of children in feeding centres who will need lifesaving treatment.

    ‘A multiple disaster is stalking children in the Sahel,’ said the agency’s Regional Director, David Gressly. ‘Even in a best case scenario we are expecting more than a million children suffering from severe and acute malnutrition to enter feeding centres over the next six months. More extreme conditions could see the number rise to around 1.5 million, and funding is still not coming at the rate we need to prepare properly.’ So far the agency has received US$24 million dollars against an emergency appeal of US$119 million dollars for 2012.

    Governments, UNICEF, other UN agencies and international aid organisations are responding to a crisis caused by poor rainfall and failed harvests affecting an estimated 10 million people in areas of Chad, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, northern Nigeria, northern Cameroon and parts of the north in Senegal. The conflict in Mali, which has led to people fleeing their homes, has increased demand for emergency assistance not only there, but in neighbouring countries that have received refugees.

    ‘The upsurge of fighting in Mali, as well the acute insecurity in northern Nigeria and elsewhere, are complicating the aid operation,’ said Gressly. ‘Without a good emergency response and a sustained effort to reduce risk in the medium to long term an entire generation faces a future of dependency, poverty and threatened survival.’

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    About UNICEF

    UNICEF is the world’s leading organisation working for children and their rights in more than 190 countries. As champion of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF works to help every child realise their full potential. Together with our partners, UNICEF delivers health care, nutrition, education and protection to children in urgent need, while working with governments to ensure they deliver on their promise to protect and promote the rights of every child. UNICEF relies entirely on voluntary donations from individuals, governments, institutions and corporations, and is not funded by the UN budget. For more information, please visit www.unicef.org.uk.

    For more information, please contact:

    Stephen Pattison, UNICEF UK Media Relations Team
    stephenp@unicef.org.uk
    + 44 (0)207 375 6085 + 44 (0)7785 468 775

    Martin Dawes, UNICEF Regional Office for West and Central Africa, Mobile + 221 77 569 1925,
    mdawes@unicef.org

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