Mounting Concern For Hungry In Chad As Hope Rises In Niger

Many of the children brought to this feeding centre in western Chad had gone months without proper nutrition and required urgent medical attention. Copyright: WFP/Antti Mantymaa

As harvest time approaches in the Eastern Sahel, rates of malnutrition among children are at critical levels in Chad. A crippling lean season has left many children weak and in of need nutritional support. Two-year old Hassan is one of those now getting this badly needed support. Watch video

N’DJAMENA – At a child feeding centre in Western Chad, two-year-old Hassan can barely lift his head to swallow the vitamin supplements which are saving his life. Though he made it to the centre in time to regain his health, he may never recover fully from the long-term scarring of acute malnutrition.

Hassan is among the over 26 percent of children in Chad currently suffering from malnutrition after a long drought in the Sahel region of west-central Africa--a figure almost double the emergency threshold of 15 percent.

”We've seen the positive impact of timely, well-coordinated food and nutrition assistance deliver in partnership with the government in Niger," said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran. "The situation in Chad is still alarming. After a long and crippling lean season, children are weak and need to continue receiving food and nutritional support."

Responding to the crisis

A hard drought

Earlier this year, scarce rainfall throughout the Sahel wiped out the last harvest and killed scores of livestock, triggering food crises throughout the region.

Families who depend on their own small plots of land for survival quickly ran out of food, and child hunger rates began to climb.

In response to the malnutrition crisis, WFP launched emergency food operations in Niger and Chad with the aim of protecting children, while keeping their family members fed through the lean season when food is in short supply and prices rise.

Hope and concern

"In Niger, we're beginning to see the price of food fall on local markets in some areas, and the malnutrition rates among the very young are stabilizing in parts of the country," said WFP's Emergency Coordinator for the region, Manuel Aranda da Silva, after a fact-finding mission to Niger and Chad.

“The high levels of malnutrition I saw among children in Chad convinced me that we are going to have to maintain the high momentum of our current operation at least for the next three months.”

"The health system in Chad does not cover all areas, and there are fewer NGOs to support WFP's food distributions," he explained, adding that the next priority would be to improve Chad's ability to cope with drought in the future.