Burkina Faso + 3 more

Remarks by United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, Senior Officials Meeting on the Humanitarian Situation in the Central Sahel, 27 January 2022


As delivered

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a privilege for me to join today’s Central Sahel meeting. Thanks, in particular to the Governments of Denmark and Germany, and to the European Union, for hosting this important event.

Last week, I had the chance to see for myself some of the difficulties people endure in this region that we will be discussing today.

I visited Nigeria and met people affected by the Lake Chad Basin crisis in the northeast of Nigeria. The stories they told me are emblematic of the struggles people across the Central Sahel face: violence, repeated displacement, and difficulty finding sustainable livelihoods for themselves and their families.

I also hope to visit Mali and Niger in the months ahead to meet with affected people there too. Nearly 15 million people in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso face those same struggles. That’s four million people more in need since January 2021 – a extraordinary increase in only one year.

In 2022, we will need close to US$2 billion for the humanitarian response in these three countries.

The confluence of conflict, climate change, increasing political instability, lack of sustainable development opportunities, and poverty are driving millions into increasingly desperate conditions. COVID-19 and its economic impact has only made it all much worse.

Violent attacks went up eight-fold in the Central Sahel between 2015 and 2021 – with the number of fatalities also increasing more than ten-fold. The result is more than two million people displaced including half a million internally displaced last year alone.

Insecurity and attacks disrupt already weak basic social services. More than 5,000 schools are closed or non-operational, jeopardising the future of hundreds of thousands of children. Many health centres are not working. Displacement and increased insecurity have disrupted access to water, sanitation, and hygiene services. And livelihoods have of course been compromised for millions of families.

And while we speak today, a dramatic food crisis is playing out in the region, driven by violence, high food prices and climate shocks. This combination means more people projected to be food insecure than in 2014. The number of people facing severe food insecurity has tripled in Mali and doubled in Niger compared to November 2020. During the lean season, more than eight million are expected to be affected.

Meanwhile, the pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing gender inequalities in the region, and women and girls face increased gender-based violence. We also know that periods of deep food scarcity make women and girls even more vulnerable and likely to resort to negative coping strategies.

While needs grow, humanitarian workers face growing difficulties in responding. The Central Sahel is one of the most dangerous places in the world for aid workers. One-third of all abductions of aid workers in the world in 2020 occurred in Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso. And yet, even in the face of this insecurity and danger, I met humanitarian workers in the Lake Chad region last week whose dedication, professionalism and commitment to the people they serve is absolutely astonishing.

Because there is no doubt, aid workers and organizations have stayed and are delivering. Humanitarian organizations reached more than seven million people in the region in 2021 and raised $700 million in funding from very generous Member States and of course the European Union present at this meeting.

I thank donors for their support. But unfortunately, this is not even halfway to meeting the needs of people in the Sahel.

To help bridge that funding gap, I released $54.5 million from the CERF in 2021 for Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. OCHA also established the first-ever regional pooled fund in 2021 - allocations for this year and last totalling nearly $33 million.

I’m grateful to all those who have contributed, either through Humanitarian Response Plans, to the CERF, or to the new regional pooled fund. Your efforts are critical, and they are highly appreciated.

But needs are growing faster than generosity. It is a grim picture. Conflict, drought and food insecurity, gender-based violence - all growing more quickly than the support that is available.

Yet the Sahel is also, let’s not forget, a region of enormous potential. Working together – the Governments and people of the Central Sahel, the UN, our NGO partners, and generous donors – we can reverse the trend that I have been describing. With more efforts focused on resilience, sustainable solutions, and cooperation across our humanitarian and development partners, and peace efforts, the famous Nexus, we can make real progress.

I hope our meeting today will result in concrete advances against our financial and policy commitments set out last year. I applaud the engagement of all those present and encourage all of us here today to accelerate the effort.


UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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