NEW YORK (BNO NEWS) -- An estimated 18 million people are being affected by drought, disease and conflict in West Africa's Sahel region, the United Nations (UN) said on Tuesday, warning that it needs more funds immediately to save lives.
The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) urgently called for more funds to assist women and children who are suffering as a result of drought, disease and conflict in the region. UNICEF's Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Manuel Fontaine, said the agency already secured $93 million but needs another $146 million for the rest of the year.
"There is no doubt the money given earlier this year has helped us considerably to be prepared and save lives," Fontaine said. But he added that across the Sahel, the agency is dealing with multiple needs to save the lives of children, and the crisis in Mali has only put additional children at risk.
UNICEF estimates it requires roughly $238 million in funds for this year alone for the Sahel region, which covers northern Senegal, southern Mauritania, Mali, southern Algeria, Niger, Chad and southern regions of Sudan and Eritrea. The funds will help the agency to respond to the growing needs in the region, where the UN estimates that approximately 18 million people are affected by a drought and food crisis.
In addition to the drought, the northern part of Mali has also witnessed continuing clashes between Government forces and Tuareg rebels since January, leading to the mass displacement of civilians. The majority of those uprooted have sought refuge in neighboring countries.
"So far we have received money primarily for the immediate nutrition response. But the lack of funds for other vital work prevents us from doing all that we can for children and their parents in what is their time of greatest need," Fontaine said. As part of its emergency response in the region, during the first four months of the year, nearly 250,000 children under five years of age who are suffering from severe acute malnutrition received life-saving treatment in the Sahel, UNICEF said.
However, the agency forecasts that 5,200 specialist treatment centers will need to be established to cope with the crisis. The biggest upsurge in children needing help will be over the coming three months because the region is now in the driest and harshest period of the year.
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