Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Chad: 60 percent of the population in drought-plagued Chad are at risk of hunger

Source: United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) - Over 60 percent of the population in drought-plagued Chad are at risk of going hungry, according to a WFP food security report. Weak harvests have left small farmers particularly vulnerable as the country enters the summer lean season. WFP is working to help 2.3 million people in the worst affected areas.

TLEHAYE – Mariam Tchado, 30, is a single mother of six who says her tiny plot hasn't grown much of anything since drought descended on the Sahel region of west central Africa last year. "My family relies entirely on me, but I have nothing to give them. I've been digging up anthills to find grains and picking leaves off the trees to prepare food," she said.

Mariam and her children are among six in ten families in Chad struggling to survive the lean season this summer, according to a WFP Emergency Food Security Assessment (EFSA) released in June.

Alarming levels

The report said that small farmers like Mariam are particularly high risk in the wake of a disastrous harvest season that yielded around 34 percent less grain this year than Chad needs to feed itself.

As a result, malnutrition has spread to between 19 and 29 percent of all children under five, levels which the EFSA describes as "well above emergency thresholds." A survey of health centres in six regions confirmed that rates of swelling limbs, infections and other signs of child malnourishment were all on the rise.

The EFSA said the drought was largely responsible for pushing already alarming rates of child mortality in Chad up by 15 percent, from 2.0/10,000 in March 2009 to 2.3/10,000 today.

Surviving the lean season

A month ago, Mariam had good reason to fear her own children might be among them. Despite her best efforts to forage for food, two of them began showing signs of malnutrition with others not far behind.

Since then, WFP began a targeted food distribution in the village where she lives. Her children are now building back their strength with the help of a hearty sorghum porridge enriched with essential vitamins and nutrients.

Over 2.3 million people in the worst affected areas can expect the same assistance this summer, small children and their mothers first and foremost. WFP is also working with small farmers to help them cope with the drought, raise their yields and be better prepared to grow in dry weather.

Crisis in the Sahel

The Sahel is a semi-arid belt of land south of the Sahara Desert that spans the African continent from Senegal in the west to Eritrea in the east. As a result of the drought, some 10 million people in the central part of the Sahel are currently facing hunger in Niger, Cameroon, Mali and Chad.