60 million Africans at risk of hunger – Red Cross

By 10:21 Mon, 05 Oct 2015 Comments

About 60 million people across Sub-Saharan Africa are at risk of acute hunger as food production situation is set to further worsen with the looming El Nino, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said on Monday.

The IFRC is warning that increased support is needed now to alleviate hunger, and to prepare for worsening conditions for farmers.

Michael Charles, IFRC acting regional representative in southern Africa, said erratic rainfall, failed crops and violence in the Sahel and eastern Africa have compromised the livelihoods of many farming communities.

“The regularity with which we see food insecurity in Africa has left many people apathetic. But the crisis currently facing millions of families is not inevitable and should not be acceptable,” Charles said in a statement issued in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

“There are many things that we can do to stop this food crisis in its tracks and alleviate the impact on vulnerable people, but we need international support to make this happen,” he added.

According to the relief agency, a series of climatic shocks in 2014 and 2015 decimated harvests, leaving many people dependent on food aid to survive.

Floods and drought in southern Africa resulted in significant declines in the production of maize — the regional staple.

The El Nino phenomenon, characterized by a warming in the Pacific Ocean, is set to strengthen over the coming months and persist into 2016. When El Nino occurs, rainfall patterns shift, increasing the risk of extreme weather events.

Without increased support, the IFRC said the prospect for many affected people is bleak, adding that malnutrition is already high in sub-Saharan Africa.

According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), 37 percent of children in the region are stunted, which is indicative of long-term nutritional problems.

Further decreases in the availability of nutritious food may be life-threatening for children, people living with HIV, and other vulnerable groups, the UNICEF says.

Charles said the economic strain of food insecurity on families also leads people to adopt negative coping mechanisms to feed themselves.

“Parents pull their children from school and make them work. Women trade for sex, putting themselves at risk of HIV. Farmers sell their livestock, leaving them without the animals needed to work their land,” he said.

“Addressing the food crisis now, and ensuring sustainable funding for longer-term food security programs will prevent people from falling into deeper cycles of vulnerability,” he added.

The IFRC predicts a higher likelihood of flood conditions developing in equatorial Africa, and increased risk of drought in parts of southern Africa and the Sahel region.

To meet the immediate needs of 205,000 of the most vulnerable, IFRC has launched six emergency appeals across six countries in the continent, including Gambia, Mauritania, Malawi, Namibia, Senegal, and Zimbabwe.



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