Diffa: reflections about resilience

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With the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) support, the "Building Resilience in the Sahel" program aims to support vulnerable people in Niger, disproportionately exposed to specific shocks and stresses.

By Ulrich Assankpon

After more than a decade of unprecedented crisis in the Diffa region, Niger, the need for a resilience-based approach has become an urgent necessity for the affected population.

Traveling for the very first time to Diffa was a unique experience. During my past experience, I read and wrote a lot on the Lake Chad Basin and the Diffa region but never had the chance to set foot in there.

It was very moving to know first-hand the enormous challenges faced by the population. I had the opportunity to listen to local partners such as youths, civil society, or government representatives who described with their own words the day to day harsh living conditions and their resilience to overcome them.

I realized more than ever how important it is to work with local actors and to transfer competencies at every level to make a difference in the life of the communities. It is a process that takes time, that is complex but also necessary to build resilience and empower children, adolescents, and women.

Despite humanitarian aid's relevance in alleviating populations' suffering, simply providing assistance year after year will not be enough to prevent the continued weakening of local capacities and the growing feelings of exclusion and among most disadvantaged groups. These are the root causes fueling a conflict that need to be tackled.

The current context demands the strengthening of local governance, the provision of essential services, the improvement of economic opportunities, and the consolidation of social cohesion to achieve the humanitarian, development, and peace nexus.\ With the German Ministry for Cooperation and Development (BMZ) support, UNICEF and WFP were granted flexible funding for an adaptive program to strengthen resilience and social cohesion in the Diffa region. The alliance aim, among other goals, to:

  • Strengthen the capacity of systems and institutions for better governance, promoting accountability, efficiency, and inclusion;
  • Strengthen community ownership and involvement in all decisions concerning their well-being;
  • Improve access to quality social services and diversified livelihoods by implementing an integrated package of interventions at the community level.

The joint UNICEF - WFP partnership for strengthening resilience and social cohesion in the Diffa region intends to build on strengthened synergies and complementarities at the decentralized level (community, communal, and regional). All local actors will be involved in the interventions to implement community-led, participatory, and integrated planning so that communities and municipalities can regain ownership and express their potential.

Together, UNICEF and WFP have organized a technical workshop with different local actors (technical services, youth, university, traditional leaders, representatives of municipalities...) on October 15th in Diffa to lay the foundations for operational planning interventions. This preliminary work will then be discussed and amended within the different targeted municipalities' communal consultation frameworks and then within the regional consultation framework.

This approach reflects the paradigm shift and the vision to build resilience by strengthening local capacities around decentralization efforts and integrated community approaches.

Overall, my mission made me award our responsibility to engage with communities and build their inner capacities to strengthen their resilience and contribute to better a world for children.

***For every child, resilience. ***

*Ulrich is the Principal advisor for the UNICEF -- BMZ partnership in charge of driving multi-sectorial coordination and cooperation toward collective resilience outcomes. 'My position at UNICEF allows me to contribute to bridging humanitarian and development interventions and to contribute to the operationalization of the humanitarian-development -- peace nexus,' he says. *

*This article was possible thanks to the support of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). *