Nairobi, Kenya - The UN and humanitarian partners on Monday launched a three-year Regional Strategic Response Plan to provide aid to millions of people in nine countries in Africa's Sahel region, FAO said in a news dispatch from Rome. The plan seeks to mobilize an initial US$ 2 billion from international donors in 2014.
The UN agriculture and food agency (FAO) said some Some 20 million people are currently at risk of food insecurity in the Sahel and 2.5 million of them need urgent lifesaving food assistance.
An estimated 5 million children under five years of age will suffer from malnutrition in 2014, and some 1.5 million of them will face acute malnutrition.
Violence and insecurity have forced 1.2 million people to flee their homes, creating protracted internal displacement and a refugee crisis.
'More people than ever are at risk in the Sahel and the scale of their needs is so great that no agency or organization can tackle it alone,' said UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos.
'The strategic plan for the region will help us reach millions of people with vital assistance, build resilience and save lives,' she said.
The strategy comprises country plans for Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal.
It emphasizes strong partnerships with governments and development partners, a regional perspective and multi-year time frame to better address the chronic causes of the crises.
'Our first priority is to ensure that farmers in the Sahel have a successful planting season in the coming weeks, providing them urgently with agricultural inputs,' said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.
'But our responsibility is also to make sure that the next drought will not lead to another major humanitarian crisis.'
Together with national governments and partners, the UN is working to build the resilience of Sahelian populations by producing quality seed varieties, rehabilitating degraded agricultural land, conserving rainwater and supporting small-scale irrigation.
Population growth in the region is outstripping a slight increase in food production in 2013 and the lack of access to food is compounded by high prices in most markets.
'The situation requires an early and large-scale humanitarian response in almost all countries of the Sahel,' said Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response.
'The European Commission will give 142 million euros in humanitarian aid in 2014. More contributions from international donors are needed as soon as possible to meet the basic needs of the people in the Sahel.'
The 2013 appeal for the Sahel requested US$ 1.7 billion and was 63 percent funded.