- Damage from the 2004 drought and locust infestations is aggravating the food situation in parts of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and northern Senegal, FAO said in a statement today. Millet prices continue to climb, while livestock prices have been falling, the UN agency said.
FAO today warned of a "worsening food situation" in large parts of the Sahel region. The conditions for livestock production were deteriorating due to scarce pasture and water resources. The movement of animals in search of water and feed had already led to local conflicts.
Access to main food staples was increasingly difficult for vulnerable households and pastoralists. Severe child malnutrition therefore was increasing rapidly, FAO warned. Reports from Mali's Kidal region were showing that "one-third of children under the age of three are suffering from severe malnutrition."
In Niger, an estimated 2.5 million people in around 3,000 villages risk food shortages, according to a recent country study. The Nigerien government had been selling cereals at subsidised prices in affected communities, but with limited impact on the overall food situation, FAO said.
The UN's children agency UNICEF has now appealed for funds to feed some 750,000 children in Niger, 150,000 of whom are showing signs of severe malnutrition. The figures could be even higher, UN agencies and local medical staff fear.
In Burkina Faso, the government had distributed cereals in affected communities. The government of Mali has subsidised the selling of 15,000 tonnes of animal feed, while in Chad subsidised sales of cereals were expected to begin soon.
In Mauritania, the situation is also grave due to the large impact of last year's locust invasion. Here, widespread and increasing malnutrition is now reported. The World Food Programme's food-for-work programme has now started operating in Mauritania. Food distribution funded by the European Union was also expected to start soon.
FAO today found it necessary to send out an aid appeal to address the growing food crisis in the Sahel. "Additional food aid is urgently needed for the upcoming lean season, as well as subsidised livestock feed, safe passage areas for herds and animal health programmes. Many farming families will also need seeds and other farming inputs for the next growing season, due to start in late May/June," FAO said.
FAO was appealing for US$ 11.4 million to provide agricultural inputs and assist pastoralists in the affected countries. So far, Italy, Norway and the United States had provided US$ 2.1 million for the delivery of seeds, animal feed and veterinary services. "More funds are urgently needed to respond to the worsening situation," the UN agency emphasised.
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