The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has issued an urgent appeal for $186 million to provide lifesaving protection and assistance in the Sahel amidst fears that the conflict in the vast African region – exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic – will spread.
An upsurge in military action against armed groups in West Africa’s vast Sahel and Lake Chad regions has prompted the United Nations refugee agency to call on all warring parties to protect people caught up in the violence.
In Africa’s central Sahel region, millions of people do not have enough to eat – and between the lean season and the encroaching COVID-19 pandemic, there are real fears that the situation is spiralling out of control.
In an interview with UN News’s Daniel Johnson, Chris Nikoi, the World Food Programme (WFP) Regional Director for West Africa, says that he can’t sleep at night for worrying about the potential impact COVID-19 restrictions will have on humanitarian operations.
Malnutrition, disease, floods, droughts and displacement in Niger have put nearly three million people, more than half of them children, in need of humanitarian assistance, UNICEF said on Wednesday, calling for increased attention to their plight.
The situation in Africa’s Sahel region continues to be “of serious concern and urgent action is needed”, a high-level United Nations official told the Security Council on Wednesday, attributing a rising number of attacks to terrorist armed groups.
Violent attacks by extremists “almost every day” in the Sahel nations of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso have displaced nearly one million people and caused emergency levels of malnutrition, UN humanitarians have said.
Humanitarian and development responses for Mali and Africa’s wider Sahel region “are falling short”, and support must be scaled up to ensure a hopeful future for its people, the Secretary-General told world leaders at a special high level meeting inside UN Headquarters on Wednesday.
Progress has been made in consolidating democracy in West Africa and the Sahel, according to the United Nation’s Special Representative in the region on Wednesday, who cited successful elections and “political dialogues” as part of the advances made.