UNITED NATIONS, May 20 (Xinhua) -- The UN released an extra 30 million U.S. dollars on Friday from its emergency humanitarian fund, the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), to boost relief efforts in four Sahel countries where 18 million people face severe hunger in the next three months.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has warned that food insecurity will reach its highest level since 2014.
"Entire families in the Sahel are on the brink of starvation," said Martin Griffiths, UN Humanitarian Affairs chief and Emergency Relief Coordinator. "If we don't act now, people will perish."
The Sahel is expected to have 7.7 million malnourished children under five, including 1.8 million severely malnourished children.
If aid operations aren't scaled up, this number could rise to 2.4 million by year's end.
"A combination of violence, insecurity, deep poverty and record-high food prices is exacerbating malnutrition and driving millions to the fringes of survival," said the humanitarian affairs chief.
The situation has reached alarming levels in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger, where almost 1.7 million people will experience emergency levels of food insecurity during the lean season between June and August.
In the emergency level - technically referred to as IPC phase 4 - households experience "large gaps" in food consumption; high levels of acute malnutrition and associated deaths; and families sell off items needed for their lives and livelihoods, such as farm tools.
"The recent spike in food prices driven by the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is threatening to turn a food security crisis into a humanitarian disaster," said the emergency relief coordinator.
CERF enables humanitarian agencies to provide life-saving assistance in the event of a crisis while awaiting additional funding by pooling the contributions of donors in advance.
This latest contribution brings to almost 95 million dollars the funding amount channeled through CERF to the Sahel since the beginning of the year.
Earlier this year, the humanitarian community launched six humanitarian appeals in the Sahel for a total of 3.8 billion dollars to provide aid throughout the region for 2022.
However, less than 12 percent of appeals have been funded halfway through the year.