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New York [US], December 8 (ANI): Growing food insecurity that is already affecting tens of millions of people across West Africa and the Sahel, must not be ignored by the international community, UN humanitarians said on Tuesday.

The alert comes as new data from the region indicated that almost 36 million people are expected to be acutely food insecure by the time next year's lean season comes round.

This is usually in June, July and August, but it could start as early as March.

This represents an alarming 24 per cent increase in 2020, according to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) survey, which aid agencies use to gauge levels of need.

"Behind these numbers, there are real people," said Ollo Sib from the World Food Programme (WFP). "We did travel recently across the region. Almost everywhere we went, people are worried."The IPC survey pointed to 2.6 million people in IPC level 4 which denotes "emergency" status, and a further 13,600 in "famine"-like conditions (IPC5) in inaccessible parts of Borno State in northeast Nigeria.

Sib, a WFP senior researcher based in Senegal, said that the agency needs some $700 million to assist people for the next six months.

He noted that an additional two million people in Central African Republic (CAR) also need urgent humanitarian assistance.

"In total, 38 million in West Africa, Cameroon and CAR will not be able to meet their basic needs, food included, without external support," he told journalists in Geneva, via Zoom.

Highlighting Burkina Faso as an example of wider regional vulnerability, Sib explained that healthcare workers there had told him that they were now seeing double the number of admissions compared to usual.

This was a worrying and unusual development, he explained, given this is still the harvest season. (ANI)

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