As conflict, poverty, prolonged droughts, floods, and extreme weather conditions blight the Sahel, the specter of hunger looms large: at least seven million children will suffer from severe hunger in the Sahelian African countries of Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso.
A new survey by the NGO, Save the Children notes that during the June-August 2023 lean season, an additional 2.2 million people will go hungry in the Sahel, compared to the October-December 2022 situation during which 5.3 million people went hungry.
Children, the survey notes, will be most affected, given that they constitute 50% of the population in the three countries, according to United Nations population data.
This segment of the population is more vulnerable and suffers more from hunger than adults because it is more difficult for them to adapt to the challenging circumstances.
The additional hunger statistic will only add to the about one million children across the central Sahel who are already suffering from life-threatening severe acute malnutrition, according to UNICEF.
Experts are warning that about 13.5 million people across the African Sahel could fall into poverty because of climate variations.
Up to 13.5 million people across Africa’s Sahel region could fall into poverty by 2050 due to climate variations. Already, the COVID-19 pandemic and the regions enduring conflicts have worsened the food crisis, and families in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso are finding it increasingly tough providing nutritious food for their children, so much so that the number of children under five facing acute malnutrition last year increased threefold.
Abdou Malam Dodo, regional food, security, and livelihood advisor for Save the Children in West and Central Africa, said:
“Without urgent action in the coming months, we expect to see a growing number of families resorting to increasingly desperate measures to survive, such as selling off the small number of assets they own to afford food and reducing or skipping meals. The time to act is now. Children’s lives depend on it.”
But it is not only the Central Sahel that needs urgent action to deal with hunger in Africa.
The number of people facing severe hunger in the DRC is 26 million, according to the World Food Program, and this is driven over 25 years of conflict and endemic poverty.
In South Sudan, increasing violence, compounded by four consecutive years of flooding and high food prices have combined to force 7.7 million people, or about 65% of the population into famine. In neighboring Sudan, conflict, floods, and invasion mean that 15.8 million people cannot afford a decent meal and in Somalia, 6 million people have slipped into hunger as drought, civil war and soaring food prices continue to bite.
A similar situation obtains in northern Ethiopia where armed conflict has left 5.5 million people without food in the Tigray, Afar, and Amhara regions.
The WFP says it is responding to the situation by providing emergency food assistance to the affected countries, as well as long-term projects like agricultural trainings for farmers.