Sahel region faces malnutrition crisis

UN says one million children at risk of dying of hunger in parts of Africa's Sahel region amid drought and unrest.

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    At least one million children are at risk of dying of malnutrition in parts of Africa's Sahel region, which covers Mauritania, Mali, and Niger, according to the United Nations.

    Ertharin Cousin, the executive director for the UN World Food Programme, told Al Jazeera on Saturday that the worsening crisis in the West African region was a situation that the global community could no longer ignore.

    Speaking at the Mangaize refugee camp in Niger, Cousin said that many people fleeing from unrest and other issues in northern Mali were arriving at the camp everyday.

    "They came to a place that had as little as what they had in Mali, but what they found here was safety," said Cousin.

    "We're seeing bus-loads of refugees coming in everyday, fleeing the challenges in northern Mali. This is a crisis that the global community cannot ignore."


    Al Jazeera interviews Ertharin Cousin

    Al Jazeera's Mohammed Vall, reporting from Katawan in southern Mauritania, said that people there were facing serious problems grazing their cattle due to the lack of rain.

    Cattle is the main source of living in the region, but there is not enough fodder for them, and they are dying in droves.

    One livestock herder said that many had been driven from their homes as a result of the drought.

    "We're looking for a place where our livestock can graze," Khyar said.

    The World Food Programme says that 700,000 people in Mauritania are facing chronic food shortages.

    According to the WFP, rates of malnutrition were high in Niger even before this year's problems, as a result of erratic rainfaulls and pest infestations which have severely affected the harvests.

    The organisation estimates that 1.7 million people are at risk of hunger in neighbouring Mali, which has been complicated further by the uprising in the north.

    They have also reported crop failures in about 40 per cent of Burkina Faso, where food prices have risen as a result. They estimate that 1.7 million people are estimated to be at risk of going hungry.

    The WFP also found that over one million people in Chad are "severely food insecure", with a further 2.5 million also at risk.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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