Mothers and their children wait in line at the nutrition center in Bamako, Mali. Credit: OCHA
Children are the face of the food and nutrition crisis, says UN Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos.
The UN Humanitarian Chief, Valerie Amos, concluded her first visit to Mali today with an appeal to the international community and donors not to forget the millions of people facing a food and nutrition crisis.
The crisis is affecting nearly 30 per cent of the Malian population of 15.8 million, including 175,000 children who are at risk of severe acute malnutrition. Across the Sahel region, more than a million children face the threat of severe acute malnutrition.
“Children's lives are being blighted by a nutritional crisis which we have the knowledge and capacity to address, but we lack the funds to do everything that is needed,” said Ms. Amos
During a three-day visit, the Humanitarian Chief visited a nutrition centre treating hundreds of malnourished children in the capital city, Bamako, as well as displaced communities in Mopti. At the Sevare camp for displaced people, she met families who had fled the violence in the north.
“People explained to me that they left their homes due to insecurity, but also because they had no more money to buy food since the collapse of the economy” said Ms. Amos.
Some 440,000 people have been forced from their homes due to the conflict and over half of them have fled across the border into neighbouring countries such as Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso. Conflict and displacement is further exacerbating the food and nutrition crisis which is affecting some 18.7 million people across the region.
“After decades of conflict in northern Mali people deserve peace and stability so that they can return home. I hope the international community, regional bodies and the Government of Mali will work to that end,” said Ms. Amos. “It is ordinary people who are feeling the brunt of the crisis.”
Although aid organizations are providing support throughout the country, insecurity, limited access and funding are affecting the response. Eight months into the year, UN agencies and humanitarian organizations have only received 46 per cent of the required funding needed to scale up the emergency response and provide long-term support to break the cycle of drought and hunger in Mali.
In southern Mali, the effects of long-term drought have led to food insecurity and the loss of livelihoods of about 3.5 million people. While at Gabriel Touré Nutrition Centre in Bamako, Ms. Amos met mothers of children being treated for malnutrition. “Almost 150,000 children across Mali have been treated for acute malnutrition this year in facilities like this, most of them in the south of the country where 87 per cent of the children live.”
“We are saving lives here, but we must do more. It only costs around $100 to prevent a child from dying from severe acute malnutrition. But we also have to tackle the root causes of this crisis so that mothers in Mali, and the wider Sahel region, can have confidence in the future for themselves and their children.” said Ms. Amos.