Brussels/Dakar — UNICEF said today it had received two donations from the European Commission's Directorate General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO) to provide treatment for children suffering from severe acute malnutrition in the Sahel nutrition crisis in West and Central Africa.
UNICEF estimates that at least 1.1 million children under 5 will need specialized, life-saving care in the course of the year and is working with partners and governments to establish more than 4,000 treatment centres in the region.
A contribution of 11.5 million Euros will be spent on nutrition programmes in each of the eight affected countries. A second tranche of 5 million Euros is assigned to Chad, where some 127,000 children under 5 are at risk of dying. The operation there faces considerable logistical and capacity challenges.
"This money will be spent on making sure that when a very sick child arrives in a treatment centre, there is therapeutic food, professionals who know exactly what to do and medicines to combat diseases that prey on a weakened body," said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF's Regional Director for West and Central Africa. "We face considerable challenges to ensure this happens but donations such as this are a considerable statement of intent. We cannot fail these children."
Cees Wittebrood, head of ECHO's West, East and Southern Africa department said: "Aid is urgent. We need to save lives now! UNICEF is a trusted partner of ECHO, capable of providing emergency nutritional support to thousands of children. While saving lives now we help to make people safer in the future, preserve their capacities and build on resilience. Our ultimate goal is to help them get to a position where they are better able to cope with drought, poorer harvests and the other causes behind this crisis."
The UN estimates that as many as 15 million people will be affected in the following countries: Chad, northern Nigeria, northern Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and northern Senegal.
ECHO is among UNICEF's largest humanitarian donors. In 2011 alone, it provided over 70 million Euros for UNICEF projects to support children.