The situation in Africa’s Central Sahel region has severely worsened, with millions facing acute hunger and in need of emergency aid, a senior UN official said on Tuesday.

“We’ve seen a sharp deterioration over the past two years – humanitarian needs in the Central Sahel are higher than they have ever been,” said Mark Lowcock, under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator.

Speaking at a high-level event on the Central Sahel organized by Denmark, Germany, the EU, and the UN, he warned that the region “is very close to a tipping point.”

“A preventable tragedy is looming,” he said, adding that needs have increased at a “truly alarming” rate.

He said the number of forcibly displaced people in the region has risen “more than twentyfold in the past two years.”

“More than 7 million people have been pushed into acute hunger. All told, more than 13 million people need emergency assistance to survive. Five million of them are children,” Lowcock said.

The UN official said “far bigger investments” are required to resolve the crisis, particularly in “education, health, clean water, sanitation, and family planning.”

“We need to see a security response that is conducted in a way which protects, supports and wins the backing of local communities,” Lowcock said.

“We need to adapt to the pressures of climate change and demographic growth by continuing to improve agricultural productivity, adopting urban planning, and investing in sustainable economies that take into account the impact of climate change,” he added.

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