Warning of dire effects of climate change, abject poverty, fast population growth and a tormenting rise in violence and insecurity in Africa’s Sahel region, United Nations agencies and partners today launched the Sahel humanitarian appeal for 2016, which includes a regional plan that calls for $1.98 billion to provide vital assistance to millions of people in nine countries across the region.
“We need the renewed support of the international community to ensure millions are afforded the most basic assistance and protection they deserve to survive and live a dignified life,” said Toby Lanzer, Assistant Secretary-General and Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel, in a news release issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
According to OCHA estimates, in 2016, nearly 23.5 million people, or almost one in six, will not have enough to eat, of which at least 6 million will require emergency food assistance, and about 5.9 million children under five years of age will be threatened by acute malnutrition, impacting their lives and development.
Further the agency warned that a spurt in violence has worsened the situation in the region, which has also led to new peaks of displacement, with nearly 4.5 million people forced from their homes, representing a threefold increase in less than two years.
OCHA also noted that the volatile situation in Mali, where insecurity continues to hamper the return to their homes of some 200,000 Malians, the violence across the Lake Chad Basin accounts for more than half of the displaced people in the Sahel.
Mr. Lanzer observed that mounting humanitarian need is the most visible symptom of the triple crisis of poverty, insecurity and climate change that plagues the Sahel region.
“As humanitarians, we will do our part, delivering essential food, health care, safe water and sanitation to families; treating children from malnutrition and striving so they can stay in schools despite the odds. We also pledge to work with countries and organizations engaged in development and stabilization programmes, without which humanitarian aid will be required indefinitely,” he added.
At the same time, Vincent Martin, Head of the sub-regional resilience and emergency office for West Africa and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Representative in Senegal said that for the families that rely on subsistence farming, timely assistance will allow them to continue to grow their own food, secure income and take advantage of local economic opportunities.
“Agricultural assistance is essential to restore people’s livelihoods and contribute to halt the vicious cycle of poverty and vulnerability in the Sahel,” said Mr. Martin.
Speaking about the crisis in the Lake Chad Basin, Jan Egeland, the Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), one of the organizations providing assistance to the displaced in north-east of Nigeria, stressed that the world has not recognized the scale of the crisis in the region.
“Thirty million people live in areas affected by Boko Haram’s senseless acts of terrorism. Their random targeting leaves entire populations in fear, and 2.5 million have so far had to flee from their homes,” said Mr. Egeland.
Boko Haram carried out triple suicide attacks in Lake Chad Basin last week, which killed 30 people and left many more injured, prompting UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon to reiterate his call for the countries affected by Boko Haram to address the root causes of this scourge in a holistic and integrated manner.