More than 1.3 million children aged less than five years suffer from acute malnutrition across six countries in Africa’s Sahel region, the United Nations children’s agency said on Friday.
The number is the highest recorded in the last decade, and represents a more than 50 per cent increase compared to 2017 in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal.
At the beginning of 2018, UNICEF has projected that some 1.6 million children across the six Sahel countries were at risk of suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
“Malnutrition silently stalks children across the Sahel, and 2018 has been particularly severe,” said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa. “We have been able to deliver the supplies and medicines these children need to survive, but equally important are investments in preventive measures and early detection to stop children from getting sick in the first place. This was the shift we implemented this year and it produced encouraging results.”
The UN agency attributed the high malnutrition levels in the Sahel region to multiple factors including land and crop degradation, periodic droughts and weather-related shocks, poverty, limited access to basic food staples and essential services, and population growth.
Poirier warned that the children suffering from malnutrition were also at risk of getting other diseases.
“When children suffer from severe acute malnutrition, they are more vulnerable to illnesses such as malaria and waterborne diseases,” she said.