Little progress still counts!
Saying that Africa’s Sahel region remains vulnerable to chronic under-development and human insecurity of all kinds, the United States today reported the world is also seeing signs of progress throughout the region.
In her remarks at the High-Level Meeting on the Sahel, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Samantha Power said the political resolution to the crisis in Mali marked a significant progress in the region.
In Mali, Ms. Power says the threat from violent extremists has been met and a return to stability is at hand.
“Leaders in the Sahel deserve special credit for their role in brokering a political resolution to the crisis in Mali.” – Ms. Power
She says the dramatic progress in Mali is a testament to what concerted international action and regional leadership can achieve.
How US fosters Progress in the region
According to Ms. Power, the United States has over the past two years has provided more than $620 million in assistance to the Sahel.
“This is in addition to $93 million in 2013 to support the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership.” – Ms. Power
She says with the return of democracy to Mali, the United States has unblocked $97 million in development aid to assist the people and the government of that pivotal country.
In addition, the US pledges to continue contributing as much assistance as it can, and encourages other donors to do the same.
The US will work cooperatively with the governments of the region and our international partners to ensure we address the region’s challenges, Ms. Power noted as well.
The US will also continue to work through the Global Counterterrorism Forum to identify capacity-building needs in the region and mobilize the necessary support and expertise needed to meet these challenges.
Challenges still evident
Ms. Power highlighted that regional challenges are still existing particularly in Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Niger and Chad where their governments have too often been too weak.
Niger has experienced two armed rebellions and four coups since achieving independence.
She notes although democratic institutions have started to take root there but they need reinforcement.
In addition, the Sahel has also long faced chronic and systemic economic and humanitarian challenges.
She reports that more than ten million people in the region are still in need of food assistance and more than 1.4 million children across the region are at severe risk of malnutrition.
These challenges only exacerbate the underlying vulnerabilities in the region and recent events, she said.
Events like the coup and insurgency in Mali, the emergence of a security vacuum following the revolution in Libya, and terrorist attacks in Algeria and Niger, among other places, underscore the particular threat posed by violent extremism, especially al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb have worsened situation in the region.
15 million people at risk of facing famine
With failed harvest and less rain in the drought-hit Sahel, 15 million people are now facing food insecurity in the region which stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, and includes countries such as Niger and Mali.
Reports say Niger is again facing a crisis of a failed harvest because last season the rains did not come.
In Mali, 3.5 million will be affected by severe food insecurity this year as insecurity displaced more than a quarter of a million people since the beginning of 2012.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the food and nutrition crisis facing countries in West Africa’s drought-prone Sahel region has continued to deteriorate at an alarming rate this year despite commendable early response efforts by governments and international aid agencies.
The worsening food shortages and malnutrition have been caused by conflict and insecurity, OCHA added.
UN agencies and partners last December appealed for $724 million to fund the humanitarian response to the crisis in the Sahel.
In addition, UN reports that at least one million children under the age of five across Africa’s Sahel region are at risk of dying from severe famine and malnutrition due to drought.
The estimates over 220,000 vulnerable children live in Mali alone.
UNICEF appeals that it needs USD 120 million to tackle the worsening crisis.
In March 2012, UN reports that countries in the Sahel are at risk of full-scale food and nutrition crisis.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said that at least 15 million people are estimated to be at risk of food insecurity in Sahel region, including 5.4 million people in Niger, three million in Mali, 1.7 million in Burkina Faso and 3.6 million in Chad, as well as hundreds of thousands in Senegal, the Gambia, and Mauritania.
The Sahel has regularly been afflicted by food insecurity as drought, poor harvests and rising food prices have left the region on the brink of a humanitarian crisis.
The Sahel belt of Africa stretches from Senegal to Eritrea, the whole wide of northern Africa, from the west coast to the east coast, 5,400 km.