NDJAMENA – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has completed an airlift to provide high-nutrient Plumpy’doz, a ready-to-eat specialized supplementary nutrition product, to thousands of children at risk of malnutrition in drought-stricken Chad.
Two flights arrived in Ndjamena this week (28 and 29 March), and today trucks will begin to carry almost two hundred metric tons of the urgently needed food -- a fortified peanut paste to prevent malnutrition – to areas affected by the drought. Some 36,000 children under two years of age in the regions of Wadi-Fira and Sila in eastern Chad, will receive the assistance, funded by the European Commission’s humanitarian aid department (ECHO).
“Given the urgency of the food and nutrition situation and the severe logistics challenges in landlocked Chad, where food can take up to four months to reach the people who need it most, airlifts are the best and speediest way to reach vulnerable children now,” said WFP Chad Country Director Alice Martin-Daihirou. “This operation will ensure the timely pre-positioning of food, ahead of the rainy season, for the first distributions for under two-year-olds in eastern Chad.”
Acute malnutrition affects 16 percent of children in Chad and the Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rate exceeds the 15 percent ‘critical’ level in 15 of the country’s 22 regions. Even before the Sahel crisis began late last year, the national rate was above the 10 percent ‘serious’ threshold.
Like much of the Sahel region, Chad has experienced a severe drought which has led to a 43 percent drop in food production. Food shortages have been aggravated by a 50 percent spike in prices, leaving 3.5 million people vulnerable. Out of these, 1.2 million are in need of emergency food assistance.
In response to the crisis, WFP aims to provide assistance to 1.6 million people in the worst-affected regions of Kanem, Bahr-El-Ghazel, Batha, Sila, Ouaddai, Wadi Fira, Hadjer Lamis, Lac and Guera in the Sahelian belt. Half a million people have already been reached since January 2012 with much-needed food assistance and nutrition support.
The airlifts from the WFP-managed UN Humanitarian Response Depots in Italy and Dubai are part of a plan to distribute a total of 500 metric tons of Plumpy’doz. This is the first consignment of the specialised nutrition product while others are expected to arrive overland via Cameroon and Sudan. The operation has been funded through a €9 million contribution from ECHO, the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department, towards the six-month feeding programme for children under age two.
Contributions towards WFP’s relief and recovery operation in Chad have been received from various donors including the USA, Canada, France, Japan, Germany, Australia and Switzerland. The WFP Chad operation will cost US$163 million and still faces a US$54 million (33 percent) shortfall in funding. WFP’s overall regional response to the food crisis in the Sahel countries will cost US$808 million and faces a US$517 million (64 percent) shortfall.