Hunger is on the rise across the Sahel region of West Africa, a massive swathe of territory that stretches across eight countries from Chad in the east to Senegal in the west. Here is a rundown of the situation in each country and a look at how we're responding to help the people who live there.
Situation: Even before the crisis, malnutrition rates were high - 20 percent Global Acute Malnutrition rate among children under two last year. Erratic rains and pest infestations have decimated harvests in centre and west. Cereal deficit of more than 500,000 metric tons. Prices for all cereals are well above the seasonal average for the past five years.
What we're doing: WFP has launched an emergency operation that will support 4.18 millions over the course of 2012, with a special focus on small children. Some 35 percent of people being assisted will receive cash. Over 600,000 people have already received support through food-for-assets and cash-for-work programmes.
Situation: Patchy rainfall has reduced pasture for livestock and slashed harvests. High food prices are also having an impact. Around 25 percent of households are food insecure (about 700,000 people). The east and south are the most affected regions of the country. In 2011, the crop yield was 34 percent below the 5-year average.
What we're doing: WFP emergency operation aims to support 506,000 people through several programmes, including cash transfers, Food for Assets, and distribution of special foods designed to combat malnutrition. An operation is also under way to support around 95,000 refugees from Mali.
Situation: In the Sahelian band of the country, pastures are extremely dry, due to the poor rains. Cereal production in 2011 fell by 50 percent compared to 2010. A WFP post-harvest national food security assessment showed that 3.5 million people are food insecure. Remote, land-locked Chad faces tremendous logistical challenges when it comes to moving food aid.
What we're doing: WFP's main operation, which got under way in April, aims to assist 1.5 million people. This includes food rations for all children under two years and mothers with babies. Food for Assets programmes will be used in seven priority regions of the Sahelian belt. In addition, more than 205,000 students will receive school meals in 2012.
Situation: Late rains have led to a poor harvest, which the government estimates is 25 percent down on the previous year. Prices of sorghum and millet are very high. An estimated 1.7 million people are at risk of hunger. The situation has been complicated by a rebel uprising in the north. About 320,000 people have fled fighting, some into neighbouring countries.
What we're doing: WFP is monitoring the security situation in Mali, especially in the North, where our activities have been disrupted. Meanwhile, food distributions started in Western and Southern regions in April. WFP is aiming to support 1.02 million people through emergency operations in 2012.
Situation: Crop failures have been reported in about 40 percent of the country, with a 16 percent decline in grain production compared to last year. Close to 1.7 million people are estimated to be at risk of going hungry. Food prices are high. The government has declared a food and nutrition crisis, and has called for national and international support.
What we're doing: WFP is planning to reach 1.17 million people with assistance. We aim to provide food assistance to families over a four-month period (July - October) coinciding with the lean season. To prevent acute malnutrition, WFP will provide special foods for the next six months to all children under the age of two.
Situation: More than 1 million people are estimated to be at risk of hunger in Senegal. Households have begun to reduce their number of meals and to sell their livestock in the worst-affected regions. In addition to poor harvests, food prices are high. The lean season has started early.
What we're doing: Overall, WFP's operation in Senegal aims to reach 862,000 people, and has started in the most vulnerable zones. Assistance will include vouchers and restocking of locally-managed cereal banks. WFP is providing meals in 2,900 elementary and primary schools, which helps families cope better.
Situation: The Sahel drought has particularly affected the North and Far North regions of the country. In these areas, cereal production is well below the previous year. Global Acute Malnutrition rates are above the 10 percent 'serious' threshold in these regions and stunting is above 40 percent. The situation will deteriorate in the lean season if action is not taken quickly.
What we're doing: WFP is about to launch an emergency operation to support more than 258,000 people. The operation is scheduled to start in June. Activities will include food assistance for the most vulnerable along with the distribution of special nutritious foods for malnourished children and for women who are pregnant or who have small babies.
Situation: The Gambian government asked for international assistance to deal with crop failure and soaring food prices. Overall crop production is estimated to have dropped by 62 percent compared to 2010 and by 50 percent compared to the 5-year average. Just over 600,000 people are vulnerable.
What we're doing: Working with the government and the humanitarian community, WFP is preparing an emergency operation to reach 206,000 beneficiaries. WFP will supply needy families in rural areas with food including rice, peas, fortified cereal, and cooking oil.