Sahel: A call for humanitarian aid - Responding to the needs of people affected by crises in the Sahel [EN/AR]

  • 20.4 MILLION FOOD INSECURE PEOPLE

  • 5.8 MILLION ACUTELY MALNOURISHED

  • 2.8 MILLION PEOPLE DISPLACED

Situation Overview

Grave concerns persist for some 20 million people in the Sahel. Recurrent conflict, erratic weather patterns, epidemics and other shocks continue to weaken the resilience of households across a region still suffering chronic levels of food insecurity and malnutrition.

An estimated 20.4 million people remain food insecure at the start of 2015. Rains in the region were late and erratic in 2014, affecting farmers and pastoralists in several countries, in particular in The Gambia, Mauritania and Senegal and in parts of Chad, Cameroon and Niger. At least 2.6 million people have already crossed the crisis threshold, 70 percent of whom are in Niger, Nigeria, Mali and Chad where insecurity and poverty compound food insecurity. With the lean season in sight, it will be important to provide timely livelihood support to reduce the number of people crossing the crisis threshold.

An estimated 1.2 million children under five die annually in the Sahel and some 570,000 of these deaths are associated with malnutrition and related diseases. Acute malnutrition persists at appallingly high levels. An estimated 5.8 million children under five are projected to suffer from global acute malnutrition in 2015 (down from 6.4 million last year), of whom 1.4 million will require treatment for severe acute malnutrition. Niger and northern Nigeria are home to 65 per cent of all malnourished children across the Sahel.

Epidemics continue to demand urgent attention in 2015. Besides cholera, meningitis, Lassa and yellow fever, more recently, Ebola has been posing a serious threat to the Sahel region and has already impacted Mali, Nigeria, and Mali directly. Surveillance and preparedness actions need to be sustained against a scourge of such epidemic threats.

Beyond the chronic threats of food insecurity, malnutrition and epidemics, violent conflict in and around the Sahel region has led to a surge in population displacement. The region begins 2015 with some 2.8 million people displaced; over a million more than in early 2014.

With escalating conflict in northeast Nigeria, an estimated one million people have been internally displaced. Some 150,000 Nigerian refugees have fled to neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon. In Cameroon, local populations near the Nigerian border are also being internally displaced as a result of insecurity. The economic implications of instability in Nigeria reverberate well beyond the confines of the northeast of the country, given the size and importance of Nigeria vis-à-vis West African markets.

The volatile security situation in northern Mali continues to have a devastating impact on civilians, hampering the return of refugees, affecting markets and preventing the full restoration of basic services. Some 133,000 Malian refugees remain in Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso and more than 80,000 Malians remain internally displaced. As in Nigeria, high levels of insecurity in northern Mali also greatly impact the ability of humanitarians to access those in need.

Ongoing conflict along the Sahel’s borders has a direct impact on the Sahel region as it leads to people (often accompanied by their livestock) seeking refuge in neighbouring countries. Conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) has displaced people into Chad and Cameroon where over 330,000 refugees, returnees and others now need to be cared for. Malnutrition, epidemics and food insecurity in Cameroon threaten many in the Sahel belt in the North. The influx of over 240,000 refugees from CAR and some 40,000 from Nigeria is placing a strain on host communities, as is the rising insecurity stemming from an unstable neighbourhood.

Chad is also confronting high rates of food insecurity, malnutrition and underdevelopment exacerbated by instability along its borders. Chad is the seventh largest refugee-hosting country in the world, home to some 460,000 refugees from CAR, Libya, Nigeria and Sudan. In addition to refugees, some 230,000 Chadians have returned abruptly from Libya and CAR, many of them in desperate conditions and in need of considerable support to resettle. Humanitarian partners recognize that the chronic nature of food insecurity, malnutrition and poverty in the Sahel requires a concerted effort to align humanitarian priorities with the work of development partners. This is at the heart of the Sahel strategy. Sadly, an alarming rise in violence and insecurity in and around the region are expected to take a toll on such efforts in 2015.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
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