Stepping up to aid the Sahel

Pissila camp, Burkina Faso, November 2019. In recent years, hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced from the Sahel region by insecurity linked to growing extremist attacks. Credit: KEYSTONE/ AP WFP/ MARWA AWAD

Western governments are meeting to discuss aid to Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger, which will signal their appetite to continue humanitarian funding in the teeth of global recession.

A jihadist insurgency brought a surge of violence to Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger last year. But the international response to the conflict, which has displaced 2.5 million people, has been slow.

So far, donors have provided roughly 40 percent of the funding requested by aid groups.

The Sahel is a semi-arid belt of land in West Africa running along the southern edge of the Sahara. The donor conference, to be held later this month, is an opportunity to provide much-needed humanitarian support.

Convened by Denmark and held in partnership with Germany, the EU and the UN, the conference “is being driven by [those countries], and as such they will be expected to pay,” a Geneva-based aid official told The New Humanitarian.

The United States has already announced $152m in new aid.

Overall, global humanitarian spending is around $3bn more this year than at the same time in 2019 - a total of $11.25bn versus $8.24bn - although overall humanitarian needs are much larger, the official said. That is despite coronavirus-triggered economic woes.

The funding outlook for humanitarian initiatives in 2021 remains unknown, “but the early indications are that key donors like the European Union will remain solid,” said Jens Laerke, deputy spokesperson of the UN's aid coordination body, OCHA. Where there has been far less generosity is in addressing gender-based violence. Only eight percent of a $434m global appeal has so far been raised, although the vulnerability of women and children during lockdowns has been well documented.

For background on the Sahel crisis, read The New Humanitarian's 2019 series, The Sahel in flames.

*This article has been corrected to clarify that Western Governments will meet later this month to discuss aid, but have not as yet pledged aid.