Deteriorating outlook in a number of big countries driving numbers up in 2014
Substantial humanitarian action will continue to be required in the Sahel in 2014 and beyond. Over 20 million people are projected to be in need of humanitarian assistance, including life-saving food security interventions, protection from conflict and violence, strengthening household and community coping mechanisms and supporting longer-term solutions for internally displaced people (IDPs) and refugees.
A dramatic increase in the number of food insecure to 20 million (from 11.3 million in 2013) is expected, driven in particular by a deterioration in the food security situation in Northern Nigeria, Northern Cameroon and Senegal. These three countries represent over 40% of the overall caseload. A further deterioration in the Niger situation will also see almost one million more people join the ranks of the food insecure in 2014 as compared to 2013.
Malnutrition rates remain largely unchanged across the region with the exception of Burkina Faso where the number of food insecure and acutely malnourished has dropped significantly. Refugee and IDP numbers remain equally stable, with reductions in IDP numbers in Mali compensated by increases in refugee movements into the region from CAR, Northern Nigeria and Darfur/Sudan.
Instability and recovery in 2013
The humanitarian situation across the Sahel remained extremely fragile through 2013. Mali was the most visible crisis of the year where an international effort to dislodge the occupation of Northern Mali by armed groups changed the situation dramatically for the better. Northern Mali remained highly unstable nevertheless, characterized by insecurity, collapsed basic services and alarming humanitarian indicators. A UN peacekeeping operation was launched in April to assist Mali in its transition to peace. Nearly 200,000 Malian refugees in neighbouring countries remained in their camps, while inside Mali, IDPs began to return to the North in significant numbers. The launch of counter-terrorist operations in three States in the north of Nigeria in May 2013 was a precursor to increased violence and displacement. A surge of refugee arrivals from Darfur and CAR added to the existing burdens of Chad.
Millions of households across the Sahel struggled to regain their livelihoods and rebuild their assets in the aftermath of the 2012 food crisis. Better rainfall across many – not all – parts of the region contributed to harvests for the year that were up by 1% as compared to the 5-year average, but represent a 13% reduction when adjusted for population growth. An estimated 11.3 million people remained at risk of food insecurity (much reduced from the 18 million of the preceding year). Epidemics and flooding affected many communities from Cameroon to Mauritania. Some 4.8 million children were estimated to have been acutely malnourished across the region.
Funding of the 2013 Appeal reached 63% or about $1.1 billion against a $1.7 billion request. An additional $300 million was registered as having been committed to humanitarian activities outside of the Appeal. Efforts across the region supported over 700 thousand refugees. Over 1 million acutely malnourished children were treated.
Agricultural assistance reached over 3.3 million farmers and agro-pastoralists. 7.4 million infants were vaccinated against measles across the nine Sahel countries. 1,787 Nutritional centres delivered the WASH minimum package.
A new, three-year plan aimed at saving lives today and reducing the case-load tomorrow
A three-year (rather than one-year) regional plan has been developed for the Sahel for the first time. The strategy provides a set of ambitious objectives and targets that will require a sustained, multi-year effort to achieve, and that could not be realistically contemplated on a planning horizon of merely 12 months. Working within this three-year framework, annual review processes in each country – of priorities, of results, of number of people in need, of funding implications – will continue to be an essential part of the planning and reporting process. A new financing request will be generated on an annual basis and will be part of a formal annual ‘launch’ process for the region.
Over the next three years, humanitarian actors in the Sahel have agreed to work with partners towards three overarching strategic goals:
1 Track and analyse risk and vulnerability, integrating findings into humanitarian and development programming;
2 Support vulnerable populations to better cope with shocks by responding earlier to warning signals, by reducing post-crisis recovery times and by building capacity of national actors;
3 Deliver coordinated and integrated life-saving assistance to people affected by emergencies.
These goals are not in order of priority. Given the large case-load already for 2014, life-saving naturally continues to be the first priority of the humanitarian community in the Sahel. Special effort will be directed towards a more inter-Cluster response to key vulnerabilities such as food insecurity, malnutrition, epidemics, conflict and displacement and natural disasters. Innovations have been introduced for improved performance and results monitoring and reporting. A light regional framework – informed by country-driven analyses of needs – will continue to provide an anchor for regional coherence.
The trend towards increased humanitarian case-loads in the Sahel illustrates a worrying erosion of resilience in the region. Vulnerable households are increasingly less able to cope with the greater frequency and intensity of climate shocks. Early action is thus the centre piece of the humanitarian response strategy; in terms of first, responding quickly to early indicators in order to help households protect assets and avoid negative coping strategies and second, moving quickly in order to reduce recovery times and rebuild assets. Building the emergency preparedness capacity of individuals, communities and Governments remains an ongoing priority with even greater resonance in the current climate.
Chronic problems need structural solutions however and the strategy recognizes that the most influential actors on the future humanitarian case-load are, ultimately, Governments and their development partners. Beyond saving lives and bolstering the coping capacity of the households with whom we are working therefore, a key mission for the humanitarian community in the Sahel is to engage, partner with, and influence, these development actors much more systematically than in the past. A shared understanding between the humanitarian and development communities of the hazard environment, of what is driving hazards to become disasters, and who is least equipped to deal with the impact of such shocks is an indispensable first step.
[i][i] For the purpose of this Strategic Response Plan, the Sahel region covers: Burkina Faso, northern Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, northern Nigeria, Senegal and The Gambia. Geographic coverage of figures for northern Cameroon: Adamaoua, Est, Extrême-Nord, Nord. Geographic coverage of figures for northern Nigeria: Malnutrition (Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe, Zamfara). Food insecurity (Adamawa, Borno, Yobe). IDPs (displaced by floods: states bordering River Niger and River Benue; displaced linked to inter-communal conflict: Taraba, Benue, Nasarwa, Platuea, Kaduna and Kogi).
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.