Up to 18 million people in Africa's drought-stricken Sahel region will face severe food insecurity over the next three months, the United Nations warned Friday.
A spokesman for the World Food Programme (WFP), Tomson Phiri, told a regular press briefing in Geneva that the organization was facing a "severe shortage of funds" to help these people.
"The needs are very high, but resources are low," he said, which has forced the agency to reduce the food aid rations it distributes in some countries in the region.
In Chad, for example, low funding levels have forced WFP to reduce emergency rations for IDPs and refugees by 50 percent since June 2021. If donors do not provide more funds, WFP will also have to stop providing cash assistance in early July in some parts of the country.
According to projections by the UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), up to 18 million people in the Sahel region will face severe food insecurity over the next three months, "the highest number since 2014.
This situation is the result of a combination of factors, according to the UN, which cites conflict, the Covid pandemic, drought and rising food prices.
"In the Sahel, 7.7 million children under the age of five are expected to suffer from malnutrition. 1.8 million of them are severely malnourished and if aid operations are not intensified, this number could reach 2.4 million by the end of the year," said an Ocha spokesman, Jens Laerke.
"The situation has reached alarming levels in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger, where people will experience emergency levels of food insecurity during the lean season between June and August," he added.
The "lean season" is the period when the previous year's crops are consumed while the current year's crops are not yet harvested.
The United Nations has released $30 million from its Central Emergency Response Fund to help the affected communities.