Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso: more than seven million children are at risk of hunger in the next six months if the food crisis is not stopped

Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso: more than seven million children are at risk of hunger in the next six months if the food crisis is not stopped

ROME - An increasing number of children in the next six months will be on the verge of a severe food crisis due to the worsening economic and environmental situation in the central Sahel. Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso are the most vulnerable places. Here a total of 7.5 million children, or half of the entire population - according to estimates of World Population Prospects of the United Nations - risks not being able to receive adequate nutrition, especially in the lean season, between June and August. Although the forecasts are not as serious as those of last summer, when 9.7 million people were on the verge of starvation, the number is still too high.

The children. They are the most vulnerable and suffer more from hunger than adults because they have a harder time adapting to difficult circumstances. Lack of adequate nutrition can lead to lifelong setbacks and increases the chance that little ones will develop cognitive health problems, or low immunity, increased susceptibility to infections and, in many cases, premature death . "Without urgent action in the coming months, we will see an increasing number of families resorting to desperate measures to survive, such as selling their few possessions to afford food," said Abdou Malam Dodo, regional delegate for food, security and the livelihood of Save the Children in West and Central Africa.

The causes of the food crisis. Many factors are causing this serious wave of food insecurity in the Sahel. Among these: conflicts, poverty and climate change which manifest themselves in the form of droughts, floods and in general extreme weather conditions. The combination of these factors is also causing a large flow of displaced people: people forced to leave their homes and villages in search of food and safety. Living and surviving in a semi-desert environment has always been difficult for man. Above all, in recent years, climate change has played a decisive role in making the choice of continuing to root the existence of millions of people there even more complex. In addition, we must consider the consequent increase in the prices of agricultural goods, precisely due to the worsening of environmental conditions and the resulting humanitarian crisis. There are therefore 15 million inhabitants who live - and, we repeat, survive - in the Sahel, affected by this long emergency.

Refugees and displaced people. Based on the data provided by theUN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) updated to 28 February 2023, in the Central Sahel there are now over five million displaced people between Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Chad. Just over a million are in Mali, almost two million in Burkina Faso and almost seven hundred thousand in Niger.

Integrated food safety. The integrated food safety (IPC) phase classification. The central Sahel crisis has reached level 3 out of 5 of the integrated food security phase, which is an analysis produced by a dozen organizations globally, including FAO, to rigorously define, through standard tools that allow to observe and compare the conditions of countries over time, what the level of food insecurity is. Phase 3 corresponds to the state of crisis, which becomes emergency in phase 4 and catastrophe in phase 5.

International support. The European Union is helping to tackle the Sahel crisis with funding of over seventeen million euros, channeled through the EU Trust Fund for Africa. Thanks to the support of the EU and the Danish Agency for International Development (DANIDA), the RECOLG project was born, which aims to help the most vulnerable people such as children and women to fight extreme poverty and hunger.

The RECOL project. The RECOLG. plan (Resilience and social cohesion of the transfrontier communautés of the Liptako-Gourma) is operational in the Liptako-Gourma region, in the central Sahel, from December 2019 to December 2023. It aims to support more than seven hundred thousand people through the transfer of money and the provision, with mobile clinics, of health and nutrition services concerning mental health and psychosocial support. With RECOLG the first youth and female loan and savings groups are being born, whose function is also to improve social relations and facilitate exchanges between the social population and the authorities. The goal is to resist the traumas of war and climate change, while also learning to develop new agricultural production systems that protect local communities from food insecurity.

The geopolitical scene. For almost 20 years now, the vast area of ​​the Sahel has become the chosen scene for the global battle against terrorism, against a multitude of traffics, as well as being a place where a geopolitical war has concentrated, less and less low-intensity, fueled by strong jihadist pressure, by an endemic institutional weakness of the 7 states in the area (Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, Sudan).

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