An estimated 6.3 million children under five, in six countries in Africa’s Sahel region, will suffer from malnutrition this year, UN agencies and their partners warned in a publication issued on Wednesday.
The West and Central Africa Nutrition working group fears at least 900,000 young lives could be at risk across Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal.
They said the number of children under five expected to suffer from global acute malnutrition in the region has never been so high, with a 27 per cent increase expected this year compared to 2021, marking the fifth consecutive year of record highs.
The working group brings together UN agencies such as the UN Children’s Fund, (UNICEF), the World Food Program (WFP), and the World Health Organization (WHO), and non-governmental organizations which include Action Against Hunger (ACF), Concern, and Save the Children.
Their joint note advocates for a paradigm shift to both urgently respond to immediate needs and address the root causes of malnutrition.
“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,” said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa.
“While treatment remains an 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, she insisted, adding that time has come to address the root causes of malnutrition of children in the region with determination and urgency.