UNICEF says 1M children suffer from malnutrition in Africa

UNICEF says one million children in eastern and southern Africa suffer from 'severe acute malnutrition,' due to two-year-long drought and El Nino

Photo by: AP (Archive )
Photo by: AP (Archive )

Two-year-old Aliou Seyni Diallo eats dry couscous given to him by a neighbour, after he collapsed in tears of hunger in the village of Goudoude Diobe, in the Matam region of northeastern Senegal on May 1, 2012.

Almost one million children across eastern and southern Africa are suffering from "severe acute malnutrition,” also defined as extreme hunger, after two years of drought and El Nino, a report released by UNICEF revealed on Wednesday.

“Two years of erratic rain and drought have combined with one of the most powerful El Nino events in 50 years to wreak havoc on the lives of the most vulnerable children,” the report said.

According to UNICEF, Children in the region face food and water shortages as rising prices worsen the situation, forcing families to skip meals and sell belongings.

Sparked by warming in sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific, El Nino periodically wreaks havoc on world weather patterns, causing water shortages in some parts and floods in others.

UNICEF Regional Director, Leila Gharagozloo-Pakkala, said "The El Nino weather phenomenon will wane, but the cost to children -- many who were already living hand-to-mouth -- will be felt for years to come."

"Governments are responding with available resources, but this is an unprecedented situation. Children's survival is dependent on action taken today," she continued.

The agency is running humanitarian appeals calling for $87 million for Ethiopia, $26 million for Angola and $15 million for Somalia.

Lesotho, Zimbabwe, and most of South Africa have declared drought emergencies, while in the number of people in need of food assistance is expected to increase from 10 million to 18 million in Ethiopia this year.

Malawi is facing its worst food crisis in nine years, with 2.8 million people (more than 15 percent of the population) at risk of hunger, and "severe acute malnutrition" has doubled in only two months.

Last month the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) said that 14 million people across southern Africa faced going hungry after the prolonged drought wrecked harvests.

The WFP said the cost of maize -commonly known as corn- in Malawi was 73 percent higher than average.

South Africa will import half its average maize crop after 2015 was declared the driest year in more than a century. The World Bank said that around 50,000 people have been pushed below national poverty line because of drought.