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Children Under Five At Risk Of Malnutrition, Death From Looming Sahel Famine, UNICEF Warns

The Guardian examines child malnutrition in Chad, where “[r]ising therapeutic feeding center admissions highlight the growing urgency of the situation in one of Sahel’s driest, most remote areas.” Chad’s Kanem region “is one of the worst-hit regions in the current food crisis, which UNICEF estimates is affecting approximately 15 million people in the Sahel,” the news service writes. “‘The needs are many and varied in Chad, as we are facing multiple crises,’ said Anthony Lake, executive director of UNICEF, during a visit to Mao,” according to the Guardian. The news service writes, “Chad has a cereal deficit of about 400,000 tons this year, and stocks of only about 40,000 tons” (Hicks, 4/10). “The United Nations has warned that at least one million children under the age of five across Africa’s Sahel region are at risk of dying from severe famine and malnutrition due to drought,” Press TV reports, adding, “UNICEF said it needs $120 million to tackle the looming crisis” (4/10).

Act Now ‘To Prevent Tragedy’ In Africa’s Sahel Food Security Crisis

“The world appears reluctant to open its wallets to relief organizations dedicated to saving the lives of Africa’s children until it’s official. They want the United Nations to declare a famine,” a Globe and Mail editorial states. “UNICEF is to be credited for its preemptive global effort to break this tragic cycle of paralysis and delayed response in the case of the Sahel,” where “[o]ne million children are currently at risk of dying of acute malnutrition,” the editorial continues, and highlights a fundraising campaign launched by the organization last week, called #SahelNOW.

Nearly One-Third Of Under 5 Children In Vietnam Are Malnourished, Survey Shows

“Nearly a third of pre-school children in Vietnam suffer from malnutrition and stunted growth, while in urban areas rates of childhood obesity are rising,” according to a report released Thursday by the country’s National Institute of Nutrition, Agence France-Presse reports. The study, based on a survey of more than 37,000 people conducted in 2009 and 2010, showed that more than three million children under the age of five, mainly in poor, rural areas of the country, “were malnourished, underweight or suffered from growth deficiencies,” according to the news agency. Conversely, “[c]hildhood obesity rates have seen a six-fold rise since 2006 and now run at up to 15 percent in wealthier urban areas including the capital Hanoi and southern Ho Chi Minh City, according to the survey,” AFP writes (4/6).

Delegates At 126th IPU Assembly In Uganda Focus On Child, Maternal Health

“Over 600 parliamentarians from more than 100 countries” met in Kampala, Uganda, this week for the 126th Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly, where participants discussed child and maternal health and nutrition, UNICEF reports in a news article. Speaking at the opening session, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said, “The damage [malnutrition] causes to a child’s development is irreversible. … I can’t think of any greater inequity than condemning children, while in the womb, to a loss of their ability, of their right, to live fully … to learn fully … and to realize their potential,” according to the article (Ponet, 4/5). “During a panel discussion on tackling malnutrition, Dr. Werner Schultink, the UNICEF Chief of Nutrition, urged legislators to be at the vanguard of the fight against malnutrition through application of their legislative power and influence,” Uganda’s The Observer notes (Kakaire, 4/4).

FEWS Network Warns Of ‘Significantly Below Average’ Rainfall During Horn Of Africa Growing Season

“Rain may be ‘significantly’ below average in the Horn of Africa’s main growing season, potentially threatening a region still recovering from famine in 2011, the Famine Early Warning Systems [FEWS] network reported” in a statement (.pdf) on its website on Tuesday, Bloomberg writes. “Rain from March through May in the region, which includes Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, is expected to begin late and amount to only 60 percent to 85 percent of average, the U.S.-funded provider of food-security warnings” said in the statement, according to Bloomberg (Ruitenberg, 4/4). “The report warned of ‘significant impacts on crop production, pasture regeneration, and the replenishment of water resources’ in a region that in 2011 suffered one of its worst drought-related food crises in decades,” IRIN reports (4/5).

U.S. Suspends $13M In Aid To Mali Following Coup; U.N. Security Council Expresses Concern Over Humanitarian Crisis In Mali, Sahel Region

“The United States is suspending at least $13 million of its roughly $140 million in annual aid to Mali following last month’s coup in the West African nation, the State Department said on Wednesday,” Reuters reports, noting the “suspension affects U.S. assistance for Mali’s ministry of health, public school construction and the government’s efforts to boost agricultural production.” According to the news agency, “U.S. law bars aid ‘to the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree.'” State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said, “These are worthwhile programs that are now suspended because that aid goes directly to the government of Mali,” Reuters notes (4/5). France and the European Union also immediately suspended all but essential humanitarian aid to the country, according to the Associated Press/USA Today.

Humanitarian Agencies Suspend Aid Programs In Northern Mali After Armed Groups Ransack, Loot Offices, Warehouses

After armed groups in the north of Mali “ransacked government offices, hospitals, hotels, private property as well as the offices and warehouses of aid groups” over the weekend, the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) “suspended some activities in the northern and central regions of Mali,” according to a WFP spokesperson, AlertNet reports. “Tuareg-led rebels seeking to carve out an independent state in the north of Mali, and local Islamists, seized the garrison town of Gao, the ancient trading post of Timbuktu and the town of Kidal over the weekend,” the news service writes.

International Community Urging Sudanese Government To Open Humanitarian Access To Southern Areas

Officials from the U.S., African Union and the international community “are working with Sudan’s government to open humanitarian access to” the country’s Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states, where refugees “fleeing fighting between local militia and government troops” have gathered and are in need of food aid, VOA News reports. The officials are asking “Khartoum to approve a plan for humanitarian corridors as more than 140,000 new refugees have left for South Sudan, Kenya, and Ethiopia,” the news service writes, adding that Princeton Lyman, the U.S. special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, “said there are ways to get food aid into Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile without Khartoum’s consent, but they are inadequate to the need” (Stearns, 4/2). On Thursday, the U.S. Senate approved by voice vote a resolution (.pdf) urging an end to cross-border conflict and “calling for ‘the government of Sudan to allow immediate and unrestricted humanitarian access to South Kordofan, Blue Nile and all other conflict-affected areas of Sudan,'” Agence France-Presse reports (3/31).

UNICEF Launches Social Media Campaign To Raise Awareness Of Malnutrition Among Children In Sahel Region

UNICEF on Tuesday launched a social media campaign “to raise awareness about children in the Sahel region in northern Africa who are in urgent need of food aid,” CNN reports. UNICEF estimates that one million children in the region are at risk of starvation, and the U.N. says more than 10 million people risk severe acute malnutrition, the news agency notes. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, “the main causes of the humanitarian crisis in the region are ‘drought, chronic poverty, high food prices, displacement and conflict,'” CNN writes. The campaign also aims to raise funds for the crisis, as UNICEF reports having only $30 million of a $120 million appeal in its coffers, according to the news agency (4/3).

India Must Focus On Food Supply Chain To Improve Malnutrition Rates

The cause of malnutrition in India — which “results in a loss of productivity, indirect losses from impaired cognitive development, and losses from increased long-term health care costs” — is “not so much a lack of nutrient-rich food, but rather a weakness in the food supply chain,” William Thomson, a research assistant at the U.S. Naval War College, writes in an opinion piece in The Diplomat. “Rather than correct supply chain issues, which would increase availability of food while reducing costs, the government” has passed a National Food Security Bill that would subsidize grain purchases “at a time when it can ill afford the expense associated with underwriting grain purchases for almost two thirds of the country’s population,” he continues.

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