Millions of people in West Africa are currently facing a severe hunger crisis, according to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP).
Due to limited funding, the agency is unable to provide aid to nearly half of the 11.6 million individuals targeted for food assistance during the lean season from June to August.
The WFP warns that this dire situation puts hundreds of thousands of people at risk of resorting to extreme measures, such as joining armed groups, early marriage, or engaging in survival sex in order to survive.
Margot Vandervelden, the WFP interim regional director for Western Africa, emphasized the urgent need for action to prevent a catastrophic slide into hunger.
This crisis has been building up for a decade, exacerbated by conflicts, drought, and the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even before recent events like flooding and the war in Ukraine, more than 27 million people in West Africa were already experiencing food insecurity.
The WFP reports that 47.2 million people in West and Central Africa are currently affected by food insecurity during the lean season, with women and children being the most vulnerable groups. Additionally, malnutrition rates have soared, with 16.5 million children under the age of 5 expected to suffer from acute malnutrition this year, an 83% increase compared to the average between 2015 and 2022.
In the central Sahel countries of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, where jihadist activities have become increasingly deadly, the number of people fleeing violence has almost quadrupled from 30,000 in January to 110,000 in June, as estimated by United Nations agencies.