Sahel emergency: the world’s most neglected and conflict-ridden region
Africa’s volatile Sahel region risks becoming a forgotten crisis because of the many competing emergencies around the world, a senior United Nations official has warned.
The head of the regional office for West and Central Africa for the Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Charles Bernimolin, noted that millions of people in six Sahel countries — Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria — need international support to survive. The UN official, based in Dakar, Senegal, said he drummed this message home in meetings with donor countries in Geneva, stressing there are currently as many as 18.6 million people facing acute hunger, including 7.7 million children under the age of 5 who malnourished, out of which nearly 2 million are severely malnourished and risk dying without prompt treatment. Sahel’s growing needs, he said, are largely ignored because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and other crises around the world that distract attention from the worsening crisis in the region.
Meanwhile, echoing Bernimolin’s words is the latest warning by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, that the displacement crisis in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa is getting worse as the impact of climate change and conflict are forcing more people to flee in search of safety and humanitarian assistance. With climate shocks like floods and droughts becoming more frequent and intense in Africa, millions of people in countries like Somalia and Ethiopia are struggling to find enough food, water and income to survive four consecutive years of drought. To that end, the UNHCR representative in Somalia has recently warned that Somalia is on the verge of a catastrophic famine, while the UNHCR representative in Ethiopia, says 8 million people out of 20 million needing humanitarian assistance are affected by the ravages of climate change and insecurity. Unlike the drought-stricken Horn of Africa, heavy rains have inundated Burkina Faso, where the UNHCR’s representative says attacks by armed groups have displaced 10% of the population.