11 June 2012

West Africa: Unicef Appeals for Urgent Funds Amid Growing Crisis in Sahel Region

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said today it urgently needs more funds to assist women and children suffering due to drought, disease and conflict in West Africa's Sahel region.

"There is no doubt the money given earlier this year has helped us considerably to be prepared and save lives," said UNICEF's Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Manuel Fontaine.

"Across the Sahel we are dealing with multiple needs to save lives and help children, and the Mali crisis has only put more children in danger," he added in a news release.

Having already secured $93 million, UNICEF needs $146 million for the rest of the year for the Sahel to make up its total goal of some $238 million for 2012. The funds will go towards responding to the growing needs in the region, where the UN estimates that about 18 million people are affected by a drought and food crisis in nine countries.

In addition to the drought, the northern part of Mali has also witnessed resumed clashes between Government forces and Tuareg rebels since January, leading to the mass displacement of civilians. The majority of those uprooted have sought refuge in neighbouring countries.

"So far we have received money primarily for the immediate nutrition response. But the lack of funds for other vital work prevents us from doing all that we can for children and their parents in what is their time of greatest need," Mr. Fontaine said.

The agency noted that nearly a quarter of a million children under five years of age who are suffering from severe acute malnutrition received life-saving treatment in the Sahel during the first four months of the year, as part of its emergency response in the region.

It forecasts that, over the course of 2012, at least 1.1 million children would need to be treated and 5,200 specialist treatment centres will need to be established to cope with the crisis. The biggest upsurge in children needing help will be over the coming three months because the region is now in the driest and harshest period of the year, the agency stated.

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