By Lydia O’Kane
UN agencies including the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) are sounding the alarm over the escalating humanitarian crisis in Africa’s Central Sahel region.
Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger
WFP said that conflict and violence in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger, are exacerbating the effects of climate change on people’s food security.
Around 3.3 million people in the Central Sahel need immediate assistance and if action is not taken urgently nearly 4.8 million people will be at risk of food insecurity between June and August.
The World Food Programme is currently supporting 1.4 million people across the three countries with vital food assistance.
During his Urbi et Orbi address at Christmas, Pope Francis prayed that the Redeemer, would bring comfort “to the victims of attacks by extremist groups, particularly in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Nigeria.”
Speaking to Vatican News, the Head of Communcation and Advocacy for WFP in West and Central Africa, George Fominyen, said that “rapidly escalating armed conflict” has seen scores of people killed and hundreds of thousands of people displaced. This he added, “has led to a very difficult humanitarian situation for most of the people who have been affected.”
Fominyen noted that in the last year or so there has been an increase of attacks which have involved civilians. He said, that whether they are being directly or indirectly attacked, “they face the brunt of the crisis”.
Nearly one million people internally displaced
“Villages are being emptied out in parts of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger”, the Head of Communication highlighted, “and so you have more than 950,000 people who are internally displaced within these three countries.”
With attacks continuing to occur every day, schools have been closed, and the violence is also impeding access to humanitarian aid.
George Fominyen called it a “rising humanitarian crisis because of the numbers, which are escalating, but also the people who are therefore in need.”
He pointed out that despite restrictions of movement due to the conflict, humanitarian organisations are doing “their utmost to be able to overcome these challenges and try to reach people”.
He stressed that what is essential is the international attention on the situation, which should consider that there is a rapid need to scale up in terms of the humanitarian response, and assist people in need so that they are able to have the basics, which is food, shelter, health and education.”