Immense challenges face 150 million people across the Sahel. These include violent extremism, climate change and abject poverty, and a fourth – the demographic explosion that will see the region’s population double in the next twenty years – exacerbates the situation still further. Concerted action in terms of peace and security, trade, development, human rights and humanitarian action are required to help the region’s communities and their governments avert greater insecurity, poverty and migration, and instead reach a more stable and prosperous future. This paper focusses on one of these key aspects, humanitarian action.
Across the Sahel more than 30 million people struggle with food insecurity; one in five children under the age of five suffers from acute malnutrition; 4.9 million people have fled from their homes. Thanks to donor support and engagement the assistance provided by aid agencies has saved lives and helped reduce need within the most vulnerable communities. Yet challenges still lie ahead.
Between 2014 and 2016, humanitarian action in the Sahel was guided by a regional Humanitarian Response Plan which aimed to address acute need and its drivers. For 2017 the regional approach has been divided along two lines, with an emphasis on shifting from delivering aid to ending need wherever possible.
In countries that are not affected by active conflict, the absence of violence coincided with two relatively good rainy seasons. This has allowed communities to recover from previous shocks and become more resilient. Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Senegal have therefore aligned the 2017 humanitarian response with resilience and development frameworks. In The Gambia, humanitarian action has been fully integrated into the UN’s development assistance framework.
On the other hand, ongoing instability and violence in Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Niger and Nigeria exacerbate existing vulnerabilities and continue to displace people. In these countries, Humanitarian Response Plans (HRPs) will continue to be the framework for humanitarian action.
In Mali, where a fragile political agreement is in place, the humanitarian situation is stable but remains extremely preoccupying. Some 3.7 million people in Mali, and 135,000 who have sought refuge in Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger, still need humanitarian assistance.
In the Lake Chad Basin Boko Haram attacks continue and the scale of suffering is extremely high. Around 11 million people will require emergency relief in 2017. Seven million people – one in three families –and almost half a million children are acutely malnourished and require food.
For 2017 the humanitarian community will require US$ 2.66 billion to help 15 million people, across 8 countries. This paper outlines the situation, need and financial requirements and I look forward to working with the donor community to ensure that aid agencies can provide the best available assistance to the people who need it most, on time.