UN representatives based in Senegal on Tuesday issued their annual appeal for food and other humanitarian aid in west Africa, where they estimated 312 million dollars was required in 2008 for 15 nations.
"We consider that in 2008, 312 million dollars (216 million euros) will be needed," Herve Ludovic de Lys, regional director of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told a press briefing.
The consolidated funding appeal applies to all the nations of the region apart from conflict-divided Ivory Coast, and in particular the arid sub-Saharan Sahel, "where the humanitarian situation is most worrying," he said.
Money is intended for five priority sectors, ranging from food security and nutrition to disaster planning for natural catastrophes such as drought or, as this year, massive floods, UN officials said.
The regional appeal made for 2007 was 309 million dollars.
Barbara Bentein, deputy regional director for the UN Children's Fund Unicef, said that about 36 million dollars should be used to fight malnutrition, which affects more children in the Sahel than in the refugee camps for people from Sudan's Darfur conflict in Chad.
"Five children die every minute in the region" because of malnutrition, Bentein said.
A food appeal was also made by Christine Van Nieuwenhuyse, the deputy regional director of the UN World Food Programme.
Ludovic de Lys said that of the total requested for west Africa in 2007, "we obtained abut 55 percent of the funding". The best response in four years of consecutive appeals to the international community was in 2006, he said.
"The humanitarian appeal raised a little more than 220 million dollars, which was 95 percent of the needs expressed. ... That was an exceptional year, because we were coming out of a malnutrition crisis in Niger," he said.
The OCHA specified that the 312 million dollars sought for 2008 were part of a "global appeal" for 3.8 billion dollars made in Geneva on December 10, to meet the needs of some 25 million people in 24 countries.
Ivory Coast, divided in two since a foiled coup and rebel insurgency late in 2002, has its own large UN presence partly in the shape of an international peacekeeping mission along ceasefire lines, while UN agencies also work there.