N’DJAMENA, CHAD—One out of every four children under five suffers from acute malnutrition in the Sahel region of Western Chad, according to nutrition surveys carried out by global humanitarian organization Action Against Hunger | ACF International, in collaboration with the Chadian Ministry of Health, UNICEF, and the World Food Programme (WFP). Action Against Hunger has scaled up its programs to treat thousands of malnourished children with the condition and urges long-term preventative measures to strengthen local health systems.
Action Against Hunger currently supports 33 nutrition centers in Kanem and Bahr El Ghazal and is working with the Chadian Minstry of Health to extend its treatment programs to an additional 10 health centers in areas with soaring malnutrition rates. These programs are supported by UKAid from the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the European Commission Humanitarian Aid & Civil Protection (ECHO).
“This expansion should significantly increase the accessibility and quality of care for malnourished children,” said Jean-François Carémel, Country Director for Action Against Hunger in Chad. “However, at the moment, the needs far outstrip the resources available to diagnose and treat all the children.” Action Against Hunger is appealing for international support in Western Chad and across the Sahel region, a vast semi-arid region of Western and Central Africa where some 10 million people are at risk of acute hunger.
The surveys conducted in the regions of Mao, Nokou, and Bahr El Ghazal over the past two months reveal child acute malnutrition rates between 21 and 28%—well in excess of the World Health Organization’s emergency threshold of 15%. These acute malnutrition rates in Western Chad are even higher than in neighboring Niger, also facing a severe food crisis affecting over seven million people.
While Chad’s Sahelian region frequently experiences acute malnutrition rates exceeding 20% during the “hunger gap”—a period of routine scarcity between harvests—this year has been particularly harsh. Insufficient rainfall over the past two years has help push nearly two-thirds of households into food insecurity. Problems with access to arable land, water, and health care also contribute to the skyrocketing malnutrition rates.
“We are facing an extensive crisis that not only requires urgent action but also sustained approach to preventing future recurrences,” said Carémel.
Action Against Hunger is calling for long-term investments aimed at bolstering the country’s health care system—currently crippled by insufficient funding, medicine, nurses, and administrative staff—and at strengthening the country’s resilience to food shocks.
The nutrition surveys were funded by UKAid from DFID and ECHO.