WFP: Millions in West, Central Africa Facing Hunger Emergency

The United Nations World Food Program warns that millions of people in West and Central Africa are facing catastrophic levels of hunger driven by conflict and soaring food prices.

More than 31 million people, an increase of 10 million over last year, are expected to be unable to feed themselves during the upcoming June to August lean season. This period precedes the next harvest and is the time of year when food stocks in West Africa are at their lowest.

A U.N. food analysis found nearly 2.7 million people are a step away from famine. Among them, it says some 800,000 people are facing emergency levels of hunger in northeast Nigeria's conflict-ridden states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.

World Food Program spokesman Tomson Phiri says years of conflict have uprooted millions of people from their homes, destroying their livelihoods and making them dependent upon international aid. He says high food prices also are stoking the growing hunger emergency in the region.

"They have increased sharply across West Africa, leaving millions of people struggling to meet their basic food needs. The price of virtually all local staples has shot up. In some areas, prices are 200 percent higher — the highest levels since 2008," Phiri said.

WFP reports that escalating violence in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger is deepening food shortages for some 6.5 million people.

Phiri says malnutrition is worsening in the region. He notes a staggering 10 million children under age five are estimated to be acutely malnourished, a condition that is life-threatening and inhibits their physical and mental development.

"Almost half of those children in the Sahel countries are faced with high levels of global acute malnutrition, out of which 70 percent, approximately 3.3 million, will need emergency food and nutrition assistance immediately," he said.

WFP is scaling up its emergency food operation. It plans to help nearly 18 million people in 19 countries in West and Central Africa this year. The agency is appealing for $770 million to implement its humanitarian operation in the coming six months.

Source: Voice of America