Food security and malnutrition rates across the Sahel are deteriorating, due in large part to ongoing conflict and instability in the Central African Republic (CAR), northern Mali, and northeast Nigeria, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Nearly five million more people have joined the ranks of the food insecure since the beginning of the year, bringing the estimated total to 24.7 million - more than double the number in 2013, says OCHA.
"The dramatic rise in insecurity across the region over the last year has generated a tremendous number of people that need to be fed and housed and given health care, because they've been ripped from their livelihoods, as well as their homes," said Robert Piper, the UN regional humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel. "It has also, of course, had an impact on the market and some food prices."
Negative coping mechanisms
Some 6.5 million people have crossed the emergency threshold from being moderately food insecure to facing an acute food and livelihood crisis. This is four million more people in this category than in January.
"There's a big difference between Phase 2 [moderately food insecure], where you are food insecure but using coping mechanisms to deal with it, and Phase 3 [acute food and livelihood crisis], where you have started to use negative coping mechanisms that have potentially very long-term negative consequences," Piper said.
Negative coping mechanisms include taking out a loan that must be repaid from profits from the following year's harvest, eating seeds that should be saved for next year's planting season, and reducing the number of daily meals from three down to two, or even one.
"It becomes a very slippery slide, and one that is of great concern to us," Piper said.
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