, DAKAR, Apr 23 – Around 10 million people have been affected by a food crisis in western Africa\’s drought-hit Sahel region, the United Nations humanitarian chief said during a visit Friday.
"This new food crisis is very worrying. It is most serious in Niger with 7.8 million people in a state of food insecurity. It is also affecting Chad and Mauritania," John Holmes told a press conference in Dakar.
"In total there are 10 million people affected by the food crisis" in the Sahel, which includes some of the world\’s poorest countries.
It was the UN humanitarian chief\’s first visit to West Africa since he was appointed to the post in January 2007.
He is in the region until May 3 and is also set to visit Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
He said the level of malnutrition had reached an "alarming" level in Niger, especially among children, noting that the drought had affected crops.
Holmes called on the international community to "act now to avoid even worse consequences".
The UN launched an appeal for 200 million dollars for Niger two weeks ago, and while donations had been slow to come in donors were now realising the need for urgent action, he said.
After his three-day stay in Dakar, a UN regional hub, Holmes is set to spend three days in Niger. Stops have been scheduled in the capital Niamey and Zinder, the country\’s second largest city.
Holmes\’s final stop will be insurgency-hit DR Congo where he was to spend four days for talks with government dignitaries and humanitarian officials on the protection of vulnerable civilians and security for aid workers.