The United Nations aid chief raised alarm Tuesday over a worsening food crisis in the Sahel region that has sent malnutrition rates skyrocketing to their worst level since 2012.
Nearly six million people are struggling to feed themselves in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal, where 1.6 million children are suffering from severe malnutrition, said Mark Lowcock.
"Food stocks have already run out for millions of people. Families are cutting down on meals, withdrawing children from school and going without essential health treatment to save food for money," he said in a statement.
Severe acute malnutrition rates in the six countries have increased by 50 percent since last year. One child in six is in need of treatment, according to Lowcock.
The under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs warned that with the lean season approaching, the number of people in need of food could rise to 6.5 million.
He appealed to donors for contributions to help scale up aid efforts in the region and "avert the worst."
Mariam Traore, a 12-month old child, is checked for signs of malnutrition in Timbuktu, Mali on October 5, 2017