January 28, 2012

UNICEF: Over One-Million African Children Face Malnutrition Risk

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is warning that over a million children in the Sahel region of Africa could soon suffer from malnutrition, with many of them dying unless they receive millions in financial aid.

According to a Friday report by the Los Angeles Times, UNICEF officials believe that between 25% and 60% of those affected by severe malnutrition could die without emergency assistance.

The organization is hoping to provide food to one million people in the eight nations comprising that area, the majority of them in Nigeria. However, they currently have only raised enough money to feed approximately half of them.

In a statement posted to the group's website on Thursday, acting UNICEF deputy executive director, Rima Salah, called it "a nutrition crisis of a larger magnitude than usual," adding that several areas, including "the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chad and the Central African Republic“¦ are all emergencies requiring funding if the most vulnerable people, children and women, are to survive."

Reuters reports that the organization is seeking a total of $67 million in the Sahel, where they report that "instability fueled by increasing activities of al-Qaeda and Boko Haram was compounding humanitarian needs."

Further compounding the issue, according to the Times, is that drought conditions in the area have resulted in food prices increasing, in turn making it so that many of the neediest families cannot afford to fill their bellies.

The California newspaper also mentions overgrazing, locust plagues, and the high birthrates of many of countries in the Sahel region as factors contributing to the potential malnutrition facing youngsters there.

"The funds for the Sahel, for an initial six-month phase, will provide therapeutic feeding to malnourished children and campaigns to prevent the spread of epidemics including cholera," Reuters reported on Friday, noting that the call for donations "is part of UNICEF's overall appeal of $1.28 billion for 98 million women and children in 25 countries," including Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

The proposal is detailed in the organization's Humanitarian Action for Children 2012 report, which was released Friday.

"We have achieved many positive results in emergency settings in 2011, but the urgent and long-term needs of millions of children and their families will continue in 2012," Salah said in a statement Thursday.

"UNICEF requires adequate funding in order to fulfill its commitments towards children," she added. "They not only represent the future but are the most vulnerable, and deserve generous and consistent support from the donor community."


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