The Growing Crisis Merlin faces
In 2012, lower than anticipated rainfall, poor local harvests, high food prices and continuing conflict across the Sahel region of West Africa resulted in an escalating food crisis across Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Chad, northern Nigeria and northern Cameroon. 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.
Merlin’s Response Team conducted an assessment of the region in early 2012 to determine the needs of the population and design the most effective response possible, and identified Chad as the country most in need of nutritional and health care support.
Chad is one of the poorest countries in the world. Currently:
- Chad is ranked 183/187 on the Health Development Index.
- Maternal mortality of 1,200 deaths per 100,000 live births.
- Average life expectancy 46 years.
- Over 3.6 million Chadians were food insecure as of May 2012.
- Only 30% of health centers are estimated to be functioning.
- Malnutrition is the fifth cause of death among children.
Targeting the Vulnerable
Following our assessment, we launched an emergency response, establishing a new program in the Hadjer Lamis region of Chad to react immediately to the growing needs of the population. This emergency program is aiming to increase access to free primary health care and nutritional services for young children and pregnant and breastfeeding women and to improve the capacity of local authorities and organizations to respond to future disease outbreaks.
By arriving in country early on in the crisis, Merlin could begin to alleviate the stress on a high-risk malnourished population before the arrival of the peak malnutrition season. It gave us a crucial window of opportunity to save lives, reduce suffering and reinforce the coping mechanisms of those most affected, before that peak was reached.
Our aim is to focus on the worst affected areas and the most vulnerable groups, particularly children. We have gone into these areas to find and treat the children who are most at risk – not just from malnutrition, but from killer diseases like malaria. We have done this by setting up health centers, training local volunteers as health workers, and providing them with high-energy foods, medicines and equipment to save lives in their own communities.
How You Can Help
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. The tragic result will be that 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. Yet in Merlin we know that with the right kind of action we can make a big difference.
Please help us to do what we need not just in Chad but the rest of West Africa where we are workin to save lives in the face of the region's poverty, hunger, and disease.
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