Brussels — UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Yoka Brandt today joined the European Union in talks in Brussels to address the Sahel nutrition crisis endangering millions of children and their families. She also welcomed a new initiative to strengthen the resilience of the people of the Sahel by helping them cope with the shocks caused by food crises in the longer-term.
Ms. Brandt said that she appreciated the announcement by the European Commission (EC) that it would increase its humanitarian aid to the Sahel. "We are in a race against the clock to save lives before the crisis hits a peak that may threaten the lives of millions of people, so this is very welcome," she said.
In 2012, UNICEF expects to provide life-saving treatment for 1.1 million children under the age of five years suffering from severe acute malnutrition in the Sahel, where an estimated 18 million people are affected by a drought and food crisis in nine countries.
Brandt thanked the hosts of the Brussels meeting, European Commissioners Kristalina Georgieva for Humanitarian Aid and Andris Piebalgs of Development, for the support of their organizations in helping UNICEF to tackle both the Sahel crisis and its longer-term impact.
She hailed the launch by the EC of the Global Alliance for the Resilience Initiative (AGIR) to help the people of the Sahel to build their resilience so they better survive future shocks. UNICEF's added value is that it is a development and a humanitarian organization with a presence in the region before, during and after emergencies.
In the last eight months, UNICEF scaled up to assist growing numbers of children suffering from severe acute malnutrition. With its partners, UNICEF increased the delivery of life-saving supplies and services such as drugs and ready-to-use therapeutic food as well as both better water and sanitation.
The next three months will see a dramatic surge in the number of children needing assistance because the region is currently in the driest and harshest period of the year. For the rest of 2012, UNICEF requires a total of US$146 million (117.5 million Euro) for its emergency operations in the Sahel.
"We desperately need the means to do more to save the 1.1 million children at risk of severe acute malnutrition," said Ms. Brandt, who saw the extent of the food crisis during a recent visit to Niger.
This support will help UNICEF provide an integrated response in the region taking into account the most pressing needs. These include the nutrition crisis and continuing instability in Mali, where 167,000 people are internally displaced and 170,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries.
Note to Editors
The Sahel nutrition crisis and UNICEF's emergency response covers the entire territories of Burkina Faso, Gambia (which was included earlier this year), Mali, Mauritania and Niger; the Sahel belt of Chad and the northern regions of Cameroon, Nigeria and Senegal.