UNICEF warns against Sahel hunger disaster
GENEVA - Up to 1.5 million children under five living in Africa's Sahel region risk severe malnutrition if famine warnings are ignored, the United Nations childrens' agency said on Friday.
"Between one million and 1.5 million children may suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year," UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado told a press briefing.
"1.5 million is our worst case scenario," she said, noting that drought was imminent.
Mercado called for emergency funds to stock enough food for the "dry, lean season" approaching the massive area running from east to west across northern Africa.
So far, the UN agency had received only $24 million (18.3 million euros) of the $119 million it requested for 2012.
The affected countries are Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Mali, Cameroon, Nigeria and Senegal.
In the Sahel, rainfall is scarce, river basins are uneven and have low water tables for crops and livestock.
Nearly 13 million people face a serious food crisis that threatens to balloon into a large-scale humanitarian emergency in the Sahel, Oxfam aid agency has warned.