DAKAR (AlertNet) – Almost 200 tons of fortified peanut paste have been flown into Chad to help prevent malnutrition in tens of thousands of children in the drought-stricken country, the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) says.
The high-nutrient food called Plumpy’doz is destined for 36,000 children under two years of age in the regions of Wadi-Fira and Sila in eastern Chad.
Food can take up to four months to reach those who need it most in landlocked Chad, making airlifts the best and speediest way to reach vulnerable children, WFP’s Chad country director Alice Martin-Daihirou said in a statement.
Chad is one of the countries hardest hit by food shortages in the semi-arid belt south of the Sahara desert following drought and poor harvests in 2011.
The United Nations estimates at least 15 million people in the Sahel could be affected in the coming months, including 3.6 million in Chad, 5.4 million in Niger, 3 million in Mali, 1.7 million in Burkina Faso and hundreds of thousands in Senegal, the Gambia, and Mauritania.
The crisis in Chad has been compounded by a drop in remittances from Libya after migrant workers returned home last year during the uprising that toppled leader Muammar Gaddafi. Trade with neighbouring Nigeria has also fallen after it closed borders for security reasons.
Child malnutrition rates have soared to critical levels in many parts of Chad where acute malnutrition affects 16 percent of children.
Aid groups have warned that some areas of the country are now in the grip of a full-blown emergency requiring immediate live-saving interventions.
“We can see clearly that in some parts of Chad there are already very alarming rates of malnutrition among children,” Kodjo Edoh, head of the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in Chad, said this week.
But he feared there could be other places with severe child malnutrition which they weren’t yet aware of and he urged the Chadian government and aid agencies to investigate.
MSF plans to open an emergency nutrition project in the town of Biltine, in the Wadi-Fira region, in collaboration with Chad’s health ministry.
WFP aims to help 1.6 million people in the worst-affected regions of Kanem, Bahr-El-Ghazel, Batha, Sila, Ouaddai, Wadi Fira, Hadjer Lamis, Lac and Guera in the Sahelian belt of the country.