Tag Archives: West Africa

Ebola crisis: UNICEF 95 percent unfunded in Sierra Leone

UNICEF says funding is urgently needed for its relief mission in Sierra Leone, one of the countries impacted by the Ebola virus.

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Ebola crisis: WFP brings food to quarantined homes

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) took part in a house-to-house Ebola sensitization campaign this week in Sierra Leone.

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UN, Save the Children Start Famine Relief Funds for West Africa

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the world’s largest humanitarian agency, has started a relief fund for the famine-threatened Sahel region of West Africa. Unless humanitarian aid is rushed in, eight countries which make up the Sahel region are at risk of mass starvation.

The charity Save the Children has likewise started a relief fund for West Africa, urging the world to respond before mass famine takes hold. Save the Children warns, “The greatest tragedy is that the world sees disasters such as this coming but fails to prevent them.”

Map of the Sahel region of West Africa. Shaded areas can quickly descend into famine if humanitarian aid does not arrive. (map courtesy USAID Famine Early Warning System)

Individuals can donate to these funds and help save lives in the eight Sahel countries which have suffered a massive drought: Niger, The Gambia, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Chad, and Cameroon.

Mothers and their babies wait in line in a maternal health care centre in Niamey, Niger, where WFP provides supplementary feeding for moderately malnourished children under three years of age. (WFP/Rein Skellerud)

Niamey, Niger, maternal health care center: a child eats his ration of Supplementary Plumpy – a nutritious peanut-based product packed with vitamins, minerals, and milk proteins. If children receive this food, they will survive the crisis. Aid agencies are low on funding to provide the food. (WFP/Rein Skellerud)

Already children in West Africa have perished from malnutrition. The World Food Programme has warned for months that the hunger crisis in West Africa could reach epic proportions during the summer. WFP says, “Malnutrition rates, particularly affecting children under two, are generally high in the Sahel, and usually rise during the lean season, leading to significant peaks in acute malnutrition and mortality.”

The lean season, or period between harvests, runs through September. Severe drought, though, has drastically reduced the amount of food farmers can produce, leading to shortages and high prices for any available supply. Conflict in Northern Mali has created a refugee crisis which is adding to the disaster in the region.WFP is pleading for funds as it plans to feed over nine million people in the Sahel. The smallest children are most at risk because they need nutrients at this early age or they will suffer lasting physical and mental damage. When the malnutrition reaches its severest, children will die, as is already happening in the Sahel.

Special foods like plumpy’nut can save children’s lives, but low funding for humanitarian aid often prevents enough supplies from being deployed quickly enough into the field. If the world would act faster, and more consistently, famines could be prevented.

Country Director Vitoria Ginja speaking to a beneficiary at Janjanbureh distribution point in the Central River Region, The Gambia. (WFP photo)

Last year the world waited too long before responding to the hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa. Massive drought struck Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia, but it was not until summer was well underway that the world’s attention shifted significantly to the disaster.

Save the Children says, “Early signs of an oncoming food crisis were clear many months before the Horn of Africa emergency reached its peak. Yet it was not until the situation had reached crisis point that the international system started to respond at scale.”

This year a similar tragedy awaits West Africa unless the world responds now.

You can donate to the relief funds at the World Food Programme and Save the Children.

See a series of articles on the Sahel Food Crisis.

Article first published as UN, Save the Children Start Famine Relief Funds for West Africa on Blogcritics.

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This Memorial Day You Can Save a Life in Famine-Threatened West Africa

This Memorial Day is a time to remember lost loved ones. It’s also a time when people can rally to save the lives of millions of people threatened by starvation in the Sahel region of Africa.

A severe drought has ruined food supplies in this part of West Africa, which includes Niger, Mauritania, Mali, and five other countries. Conflict in Mali has created a refugee crisis; small children have already starved to death as a result of the food shortages. Aid agencies do not have enough resources to defeat the famine.

West Africa Faces Food Crisis (Australian Broadcasting Corporation video)

How can someone help? Do exactly what General John J. Pershing did after World War I. That war, in which he commanded American forces, produced a massive food shortage that threatened millions with starvation in Europe and other areas. Pershing co-hosted a fundraising dinner along with Herbert Hoover who ran American relief efforts during and after the war.

Description: New York City, Children's Relief Fund, 12/29/1920, Invisible Guest Dinner (Hoover Presidential Library and Museum photo)

A chair was placed at the table signifying an “invisible guest,” one of the hungry and suffering. Funds were collected at the dinners through the cost of the plate and also additional contributions. The money funded the work of the American Relief Administration overseas, the agency that led the fight against the other enemy of the World War I- Hunger.

Description: CRB, American Relief Administration Food Distribution, Poland, CA 1919 (Hoover Presidential Library and Museum photo)

Today, Memorial Day offers an opportunity for people to have their own “invisible guest” event. If it leads to a donation of even the cost of one Memorial Day cookout meal, it can save a life.

The director of the UN World Food Programme, Ertharin Cousin, says, “Time is not on our side. If no new food or cash contributions are received immediately, the resulting inability to pre-position and distribute enough food at the peak of the lean season, from June to September, would be catastrophic for the most vulnerable, food insecure people – especially women and children.”

Children being screened for their nutrition status at a supplementary feeding centre in Mauritania. (WFP/Jacqueline Seeley)

The UN World Food Programme has started a relief fund where people can donate to the Sahel relief effort. Save the Children also has its own Sahel relief fund. Both offer great opportunities to feed an “invisible guest” this Memorial Day.

If the donations come in, children will be saved from starvation in the Sahel region of Africa.(WFP/Rein Skullerud)

Article first published as This Memorial Day You Can Save a Life In Famine-Threatened West Africa on Blogcritics.

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Building the Future in Ivory Coast with School Meals

WFP has resumed school feeding in Ivory Coast. But will the funding pipeline be maintained by donors for the program to continue? (file photo by WFP/Ramin Rafirasme)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to the Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire) this week and spoke of hope for the future. Hope was something not often talked about when this African nation was embroiled in violence last year over a disputed election.

The fighting is now over. A chance for Ivory Coast to build a promising future has begun. Clinton said, “I am inspired by how quickly not only the government but the people have moved from the violence and conflict of last spring to successful legislative elections in December and to a commitment that is in the air to build a better future for all Ivoirians and particularly for the next generation.”

Hunger, though, is still a major threat in the Ivory Coast. A report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said, “In spite of the improved security situation, food security remains a major concern. Access to food for many households is being constrained by the disruption of their livelihoods.”

Catherine Bragg, of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told IRIN news, “I don’t want the world to move on and say everything in Côte d’Ivoire is fine.”

Humanitarian aid is critical for this country traveling the road to peace. A whole generation of children in the Ivory Coast needs nutrition and education, something many had to go without during the months of fighting and displacement. In January, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) started to provide school feeding to 600,000 children in 3,400 schools around the country. The initiative also provides food for about 25,000 voluntary teachers.

The school feeding gives these children a very important meal, which includes rice, of about 700 calories. Providing food at school boosts attendance rates not to mention class performance. So two key areas of Ivory Coast’s recovery are addressed with this program.

This free meal is of the utmost importance for so many impoverished families that lost so much during the conflict. Funding, though, is the critical issue going forward. WFP relies on voluntary donations from the international community. Food to reinforce peace depends on keeping the donor pipeline moving.

WFP says that the Ivory Coast school feeding program is only 11 percent funded. The program can run for the time being. However, by April supplies will be needed to maintain the school feeding. Donations now are critical because it can take several months for a donation to translate into delivered food. If no action is taken there is the the risk of children facing reduced rations or even losing their school meal come spring. This would impact the recovery process and the health and education of children.

As Clinton said while in the Ivory Coast, “Families need good schools to send their children to attend, everyone needs good healthcare, and I am very hopeful that the president’s agenda will help revitalize this dynamic, very important country at a time when we all need to do more to set a positive vision for the future.”

School meals are a vital building block for this vision. So it’s important that this program be supported and evolve into a national school feeding program for the Ivory Coast. Such a vision need not be too far off in the future, if the will exists now.

Article first published as Building the Future in Ivory Coast with School Meals on Blogcritics.

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