February 25, 2010 / 10:26 PM / 9 years ago

One-fifth of Chad's population facing hunger

N’DJAMENA (Reuters) - Nearly a fifth of the population in Chad will suffer food shortages this year, part of a broader hunger problem looming in the Sahel region, the United Nations said Thursday.

“Two million Chadians, or 18 percent of the population, are in a situation of food insecurity,” said Michele Flavigna, the U.N.’s representative in Chad told a news conference.

“A great deal needs to be done to counter this grave problem,” he said.

Neighboring Niger, who’s government was overthrown last week in a military coup, is also facing a severe food shortage that could affect 7.8 million people, according to one estimate released in late January.

A U.N. official in Dakar said Thursday Niger needs a stable government to address the food crisis, and urged the junta to move swiftly to set elections.

The Sahel desert region faces perennial food shortages due to unpredictable rains that can cut into crop yields and the region’s poverty has been aggravated by various rebel conflicts.

Both Niger and Chad are near the bottom of the U.N. Human Development Index, a composite benchmark that includes literacy rates, life expectancy and economic wealth measures.

Additional reporting and writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by Charles Dick

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