More than 18 million people are suffering from food shortages and political instability in West Africa, reports Plan International.
And as seasonal rains begin, the global children’s charity fears that the number will grow further.
Over 370,000 people have been displaced by the violence in Mali and continue to cross the borders into the hunger-stricken Burkina Faso and Niger.
“The complexity of the refugee and population movement into areas with food insecurity creates a higher level of risk and greater need,” says Roland Berehoudougou, Plan’s Regional Disaster Risk Manager in West Africa.
“With the arrival of seasonal rains across the region, the threat of meningitis and cholera increases.” There have already been over 1,000 confirmed cholera cases in Niger.
The outbreak is currently contained with the sick quarantined, but aid agencies fear that the infrastructure would fail to cope if cases were to increase significantly.
Plan workers are supplying materials and medicines and supporting sanitary supervision in an effort to contain the disease.
“Across the Sahel, millions of people were already vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition because of repeated poor harvests. Recent political instability and violence has only increased that risk.”
Across the region more than four million children are at risk from malnutrition, with children under five particularly vulnerable.
Pregnant and lactating women are also at high risk. Malnutrition and hunger can have disastrous consequences for children if left untreated, resulting in slowed emotional, physical and intellectual development, and even death.
Plan’s response for the region is focusing on child protection, education, sanitation, and health for children under five and the distribution of relief items.
-Plan workers are participating in malnutrition screening, planting crops in agricultural areas and handing out emergency seeds to vulnerable households.
-Under appointment by the UNHCR, Plan will be managing a camp housing 12,000 Malian refugees following the relocation of five spontaneous refugee sites in Ayourou.
-Plan continues to support the refugees through the supply of drinking water, the distribution of food and hygiene kits, and psychosocial programmes.
-Plan workers have begun carrying out child protection activities, such as hiring psychologists to lead activities in camps and working alongside an expert from UNICEF to carry out training in psychological care.
-Over the next few weeks, a second Plan office will be opened in the town of Dori to respond the huge humanitarian need.
-Plan aid workers will be drilling boreholes, facilitating mobile latrines and bathrooms, spreading awareness of health and sanitation, and setting up temporary learning spaces.
-School kits, food products, soap and dignity kits have been distributed to displaced Malian refugees.
-Plan workers in Mali are reporting difficulties in accessing the rebel controlled region in the North.
-Plan continues involvement in training sessions for health workers.
-In partnership with the WFP, Plan workers are facilitating a new programme which will include a community garden and school canteen for more than 2,000 children across 8 villages.
The African Union had recently called for the creation of a UN backed force to assist in Mali.
“This crisis is extreme, immediate assistance is needed to prevent long-term damage to the economic stability and needless deaths,” says Mr Berehoudougou.
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