(Dakar) Nearly one million children under the age of five will be at risk of severe acute malnutrition this year in Niger, Burkina and Mali, Sahelian countries facing jihadist attacks, UNICEF has warned Friday.

“About 970,000 children” are affected in these three poor and insecure border countries, UNICEF said in a statement.

Niger is the most affected country, with a forecast of 430,000 severely acute malnourished children this year. Nevertheless, “this is 60,000 fewer children than in 2022, a decrease that can be attributed to the strong mobilization of the government of Niger, UNICEF and its partners”, according to the UN body.

In Mali, on the other hand, severe acute malnutrition is expected to increase by 18.4% this year and affect 367,000 children.

“Growing insecurity and conflict mean that vulnerability is growing in the region and it is increasingly difficult to help communities in isolated areas” facing jihadist attacks, said UNICEF regional director for West and Central Africa, Marie-Pierre Poirier, quoted in the press release.

Rising food insecurity and food prices are also affecting the quality of young children’s diets in the Sahel, where already 82% of young children (6-23 months) are food poor, which means they are not being fed the minimum diet they need, says UNICEF.

UNICEF calls on governments to “place child nutrition at the top of national priorities” and “increase national investments in the prevention, early detection and treatment of malnutrition.” »