Cookie consent

We use cookies to improve your experience on this website. By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies. Tell me more | Cookie preferences

UNICEF aims to raise awareness of children at risk in Africa's Sahel region

Social media campaign to save Sahel

    Just Watched

    Social media campaign to save Sahel

Social media campaign to save Sahel 02:04

Story highlights

  • UNICEF estimates that about 1 million children could die of malnutrition
  • The children are in the Sahel region of Africa, which is prone to droughts
  • The UN agency has started a social media campaign to raise awareness
  • It so far only has about a quarter of the funds it has requested to tackle the crisis

The United Nations Children's Fund set in motion a worldwide social media campaign Tuesday to raise awareness about children in the Sahel region in northern Africa who are in urgent need of food aid.

Called #SahelNOW, the campaign asks users on Facebook, Twitter and other social media to post messages through the day to spread word of the problem and raise funds for the estimated 1 million children in danger.

According to UNICEF, a "severe and ongoing drought in these desert regions means that 1 million children could die of malnutrition; we can save them if we act now."

The Sahel, a belt of arid land that stretches across Africa below the Sahara Desert, is a zone prone to cycles of drought. At the moment, eight countries -- from Senegal on the Atlantic Coast to Chad in the middle of the continent -- are experiencing the worst conditions.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization says the main causes of the humanitarian crisis in the region are "drought, chronic poverty, high food prices, displacement and conflict."

Alarm over deadly food crisis in Africa

    Just Watched

    Alarm over deadly food crisis in Africa

Alarm over deadly food crisis in Africa 02:31
Sahel gets help from UNICEF campaign

    Just Watched

    Sahel gets help from UNICEF campaign

Sahel gets help from UNICEF campaign 01:51
Social media campaign to save Sahel

    Just Watched

    Alarm over deadly food crisis in Africa

Alarm over deadly food crisis in Africa 02:30

The United Nations estimates that more than 10 million people in total are in danger of starving to death.

Aid workers on the ground say the situation is rapidly deteriorating.

"It's related to the lack of rains in 2011 and the drought," said David Gressly, UNICEF's regional director.

"People are trying to cope with that by selling their personal belongings -- cattle, livestock," he said. "They're pulling children out of school to adapt to this."

UNICEF has asked governments for about $120 million to help tackle the crisis. At this point, it has about $30 million on hand.

"We have the technology and the knowledge to treat these children who suffer from severe acute malnutrition very effectively," said Werner Schultink, chief of nutrition at UNICEF.

"If we identify them, if we get to them quickly enough, we can really cure them and prevent them from dying," he said.

The Food and Agriculture Organization said last month that it had only $10.3 million of the $75.4 million it needed to support more than 4.7 million individual beneficiaries in the region.

The United States says it has so far earmarked almost $200 million this year to respond to the humanitarian crisis in the Sahel. The assistance aims to help address short-term and long-term needs.

UNICEF's social media campaign comes after a celebrity-backed video that went viral helped make the alleged crimes of an African militia leader more widely known.

The nonprofit group Invisible Children produced the "Kony 2012" half-hour documentary, which was viewed tens of millions times on YouTube.

The video brought international attention to the activities of Joseph Kony, the notorious leader of the Lord's Resistance Army in central Africa.

      CNN recommends

    • pkg clancy north korea nuclear dreams_00002004.jpg

      As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
    • Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
    • pkg rivers uk football match fixing_00005026.jpg

      Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
    • No Eiffel Towers, Statues of Liberties, Mt. Rushmores, Taj Mahals, Aussie koalas or Chairman Maos.

      It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.