United Nations (UN) aid agencies have warned that the rapid deterioration of the Sahel crisis is driving humanitarian needs across the region to unprecedented levels. Records showed that in 2020, 24 million Sahelians, half of them children, need life-saving assistance and protection, the highest number ever recorded. Due to widespread violence and natural disasters, 6.9 million people are grappling with the dire consequences of forced displacement. Over 4.5 million people are internally displaced or refugees – one million more than in 2019 – and 2.5 million returnees are struggling to rebuild their lives.
The Director of the UN Refugee Agency’s Regional Bureau for West and Central Africa, Millicent Mutuli, stated, ‘The clock is ticking for what is an unprecedented displacement and protection crisis in this region. Hundreds of thousands of people have already been driven from their homes and now face the added uncertainty brought by [Covid-19]. Local communities across the region have demonstrated remarkable generosity in hosting them but cannot cope anymore without urgent support as national capacities are overwhelmed. The situation in the Sahel was already rapidly becoming untenable, with a multi-level humanitarian crisis. We need to act quickly to avert a humanitarian catastrophe’.
It was observed that insecurity and attacks were severely disrupting basic social services, jeopardising the future of thousands of children, and depriving violence-affected communities of critical services. The Regional Director of United Nations Children‘s Fund (UNICEF), Marie-Pierre Poirier, noted that conflicts, displacement, violence, and now, Covid-19, are having devastating impacts on children, their health, nutrition status, education, and their protection rights. She said, ‘9.7 million children are at risk of acute malnutrition, including 3 million of severe acute malnutrition. Children and young people also face an increased risk of being victims of abuse and violence against children, sexual exploitation, child marriage, and adolescent pregnancies. It is crucial that measures are put in place to curb and stop the spread of the [Covid-19] pandemic, [and] address both the immediate and the longer-term multi-faceted needs of children’.
There have been calls for donors to urgently come to their aid, especially as cases of Covid-19 are on the increase. Resources are urgently required to bring aid operations to scale and turn the crisis around. The Head of the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Regional Office for West and Central Africa, Julie Belanger, noted, ‘If we don’t act now, the crisis will cost many more lives, devastate communities and spill over into new regions and West African coastal countries. The future of millions of people, four out of five being under 35 years old, is at stake’.
The humanitarian community has requested $2.8 billion to assist 17 million people in the Sahel but only 18 percent of the funds have been received as of May. It was noted that following the second iteration of the Global Humanitarian Response Plan for Covid-19 (GHRP) in May 2020, the financial requirement to respond to the pandemic in the Sahel stands at $638 million, with less than four percent funded.
Source: Relief Web
Photo source: United Nations Photos