Merlin responds to west Africa’s deepening crisis
As a Merlin supporter, you will be well aware of the food crisis that is gripping much of Africa, as low rainfall and crop failures leave millions of people without enough to eat.
The crisis is now intensifying in the arid Sahel region of west Africa – and especially in Chad, one of the poorest countries on earth. As Frontline goes to press, Merlin is preparing for a major emergency response operation in the worst affected areas of Chad.
The crisis we face
One of Chad’s biggest problems is that it is desperately vulnerable to drought. The poor rainfall in 2010 and 2011 had a devastating effect on food production. Millions of people have been left with little food to eat, as they can neither grow enough themselves, nor afford to buy food at the market.
The children are suffering most from this terrible situation. Even before the current crisis started, it was estimated that 209 children out of every 1,000 born in Chad die before reaching their fifth birthday. That’s a shocking statistic.
Now, with the food situation worsening, it is predicted that 127,000 children aged between six months and five years old will be affected by severe acute malnutrition this year in the Sahel belt of Chad. More children than ever will die if help does not come in time.
Hunger and suffering on this scale seems almost too much to even imagine, let alone prevent. And yet in Merlin we know that with the right kind of action we can make a big difference.
209 children out of every 1,000 born in Chad die before reaching their fifth birthday
Millions of people have been left with little food to eat
127,000 children under five will be affected by severe acute malnutrition this year
Targeting the vulnerable
Merlin is currently planning a targeted approach to saving lives in this crisis-stricken country. Our aim will be to focus on the worst affected areas and the most vulnerable groups, particularly children.
Our plan is to go into the areas to find and treat the children who are most at risk – not just from malnutrition, but from killer diseases like malaria. We will do this by setting up health centres, training local volunteers as health workers, and providing them with high-energy foods, medicines and equipment to save lives in their own communities.
Time for urgent action
Our short-term relief operation will last six months until the new harvests are ready, reducing the threat of hunger.
But, as always, Merlin will not just give short-term help and walk away.
We will also work with local communities to strengthen their health services in the longer term, so that they can treat severe malnutrition and a range of other conditions that are responsible for the high child mortality rate.
Merlin is already on the move. Emergency response teams are being recruited. Equipment and supplies are being made ready. The government of Chad is desperate for help – to say nothing of the stricken communities where every day brings more preventable deaths.
Please help us to do what we need to do in the next few crucial months – not just in Chad but in many other countries where we are working to save lives in the face of poverty, hunger and disease.