More children in central Sahel will face severe hunger in June-August 2023: Survey

The number of hungry people in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso is projected to cross 7.5 million

By Madhumita Paul
Published: Friday 17 March 2023
Photo: iStock

More than seven million children will suffer from severe hunger in central Sahel during the June-August 2023 lean season, according to a new joint survey by non-profit, Save the Children and other agencies in the region.

The number of hungry people in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso is projected to cross 7.5 million, being in the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) crisis level 3 or worse by mid-2023. 

That is a significant rise from the level of 5.3 million people between October-December 2022.

Children account for up to 50 per cent of the population in Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali, according to the United Nations population data. 

Children are more vulnerable and suffer more from hunger than adults because it is more difficult for them to adapt to the challenging circumstances. 

Almost one million children across the central Sahel are already suffering from life-threatening severe acute malnutrition, according to UNICEF. 

Many factors are causing the food crisis, including conflict, poverty and climate change in the form of droughts, floods and extreme weather.

The Sahel region is particularly vulnerable to land degradation, droughts, floods and other climate shocks.

Up to 13.5 million people across Africa’s Sahel region could fall into poverty due to climate change-related shocks by 2050.  

Economic shocks from the COVID-19 pandemic and raging conflicts in the Central Sahel region have severely worsened the food crisis. Drought and cropland abandonment due to conflict-related displacement is also exacerbating the problem.

Many families in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso are now finding themselves in a situation where they are unable to provide enough nutritious food for their children. Over the last year alone, the number of children under five facing acute malnutrition has increased by nearly a third.

The lack of adequate nutrition can lead to lifelong setbacks and increases young children’s vulnerability to health problems, such as cognitive development, weak learning, low immunity, increased susceptibility to infections and in many cases, premature death.

Abdou Malam Dodo, regional food, security and livelihood advisor for Save the Children in West and Central Africa, said:

Without urgent action in the coming months, we expect to see a growing number of families resorting to increasingly desperate measures to survive, such as selling off the small number of assets they own to afford food and reducing or skipping meals. The time to act is now. Children’s lives depend on it.

The humanitarian response in the Central Sahel remains largely insufficient, with lack of funding, problems with access and weak coordination.

Save the Children is calling on world leaders, donors, members of the UN and non-governmental organisations to prioritise funding in the Sahel region for the necessary services to support and protect children and their families impacted by the hunger crisis.

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