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Sahel: Report on 2015 Humanitarian Operations

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The Year in Review

As the final year of the 2014 - 2016 Humanitarian response plan progresses, looking back on last year’s achievements also provides the opportunity to thank donors for their continued engagement and generosity in the Sahel. Donors provided over US$1.2 billion in 2015 enabling one hundred organisations to work across nine countries in one of the world’s major humanitarian operations.

The collective efforts of our regional, national and local partners - often operating in precarious and sometimes very dangerous conditions - have made it possible for us to assist millions of vulnerable families in the Sahel. I am deeply grateful and we can all be proud of the results achieved.
In my first year as Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel, I travelled extensively to all nine countries. Wherever I went, whatever community I listened to – people were poor and resources stretched. The assistance we provided to the most vulnerable saved lives and helped reduce critical needs. The past year however, also brought on new challenges.

First, we are making headway in fighting the Sahel food and nutrition emergency. Our actions lift communities out of crisis, reduce their vulnerability and make them stronger to withstand shocks. Governments are committed to putting the poorest families at the heart of their policies and deliver basic services. Years of building communities’ resilience are bearing fruit. Measures such as safety nets and weather insurances start paying off. There are more long-term development investments.

The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Senegal and The Gambia has decreased over the last two years, and development actors are increasingly engaged to ensure vulnerable communities do not slide back into crisis.

Secondly, in the Lake Chad Basin and in Mali, progress has been slow. Where violence strikes, all is lost in a wink, and needs can spiral out of control again. The Lake Chad crisis is the deadliest and fastest growing in Africa, with an estimated 9.2 million people – almost one in two – in need of emergency relief. Four years after the conflict erupted in Mali insecurity in the north persists, and destitute communities remain vulnerable and rely on assistance.

Thirdly, across the region, the converging effects of climate change, abject poverty and violent extremism could spiral out of control. Extreme poverty affects one in every two people. With the impact of climate change and unpredictable rains, conditions for farmers and pastoralists – that is more than four out of five families – become worse.
And violent extremism has added a dangerous ingredient to the blend. Extreme poverty, lack of education and life opportunities make youths across the Sahel more open to being exploited by this evil.

The longer we wait to address the root causes of crises in the Sahel, the bigger the problem will grow in depth and in numbers. In thirty years, 300 million people – a twofold increase compared to today - are expected to live in the Sahel. If countries in the region do not address this challenge, supported by broad international engagement, the underlying causes of the crisis will be exacerbated acutely.

We are here to do our part and count on donors to stand by the Sahel, and renew their commitment to our appeal in 2016.

Toby Lanzer Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel Dakar, Senegal

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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