The UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed on Friday has been strongly advocating for the greater participation of women and youth in Mali’s ongoing transition towards a durable peace, and the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as she continues her solidarity visit to West Africa and the Sahel.
Ms. Mohammed’s visit comes as the Central Sahel region is struggling to cope with a burgeoning humanitarian and security crisis: the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in Mali increased from 4.3 to 6.8 million between January and August 2020.
In October, Secretary-General António Guterres warned that the countries in the border area between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso are caught in ‘a downward spiral’, amid rising violence, insecurity and now the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mali, which underwent a military coup in August, has established a new civilian-led transitional authority but remains highly volatile. Eextremist groups have reportedly disregarded the call and urged followers to take advantage of the power vacuum exacerbated by COVID-19, including by spreading disinformation in distressed communities.
Attacks in October killed 12 civilians and at least 11 Malian soldiers killed in separate attacks in the centre of the country. Just three days later, one peacekeeper was killed and another injured in two more incidents.
Last year 81 aid workers were wounded, kidnapped or killed in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, according to the Aid Worker Security Database.
A better future for Africa and Mali
Ms. Mohammed discussed three critical areas for building a better future for Africa and Mali during her visit: financing for sustainable development, the socio-economic response & recovery plans, and ways to improve social cohesion and community resilience, whilst protecting civilians and fighting terrorism.
The ever-present use of masks by the deputy UN chief, her team, and other UN personnel in Mali, underlines the ongoing threat posed by the COVID-10 pandemic.
To date, the UN has committed some $14.5 million worth of support to the country, which includes helping the Government to put its response plan into place, and proposing and supporting mitigation and recovery measures capable of reducing the impacts of the crisis.
The Mali leg of the deputy UN chief’s trip to the region followed stops in Nigeria and Niger. During her time in Niger, Ms. Mohammed visited the Gamou region, some 15 kilometres north of the capital, Niamey, to see the devastation caused by flooding and torrential rains, the worst in eight years, which have killed more than seventy people, and displaced some 632,000.
There, she met with the heads of villages affected by the floods, and visited a shelter for displaced persons.
The next leg for Ms. Mohammed is a two day trip to Sierra Leone, where she will look at progress towards strengthening existing peace and stability, and addressing issues of gender-based violence. She is also scheduled to take part in a community dialogue on women’s role in environmental sustainability.