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Disaster imminent for children in the Sahel


UNICEF fears a lost generation

TORONTO – March 16, 2012 - UNICEF is warning that there is little time left to stave off a disaster facing more than a million children aged below five in the Sahel region of Africa.  The dry, ‘lean’ season in the eight affected countries is imminent. For UNICEF, this will be marked by rising numbers of children in feeding centres who will need lifesaving treatment.

‘A multiple disaster is stalking children in the Sahel,’ said the agency’s Regional Director, David Gressly. ‘Even in a best case scenario we are expecting more than a million children suffering from severe and acute malnutrition to enter feeding centres over the next six months. More extreme conditions could see the number rise to around 1.5 million, and funding is still not coming at the rate we need to prepare properly.’ So far the agency has received US$24 million dollars against an emergency appeal of US$119 million dollars for 2012.

Governments, UNICEF, other UN agencies and international aid organisations are responding to a crisis caused by poor rainfall and failed harvests affecting an estimated 10 million people in areas of Chad, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, northern Nigeria, northern Cameroon and parts of the north in Senegal. The conflict in Mali, which has led to people fleeing their homes, has increased demand for emergency assistance not only there, but in neighbouring countries that have received refugees.

‘The upsurge of fighting in Mali, as well the acute insecurity in northern Nigeria and elsewhere, are complicating the aid operation,’ said Gressly. ‘Without a good emergency response and a sustained effort to reduce risk in the medium to long term an entire generation faces a future of dependency, poverty and threatened survival.’

UNICEF is the world’s leading child-focused humanitarian and development agency. Through innovative programs and advocacy work, UNICEF saves children’s lives and secures their rights in virtually every country. UNICEF’s global reach, unparalleled influence on policymakers, and diverse partnerships make it an instrumental force in shaping a world in which no child dies of a preventable cause. UNICEF is entirely supported by voluntary donations and helps children, regardless of race, religion or politics.

For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230,
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806,