$51M US aid boost to Sahel region helps bridge funding gap

Malian refugee children in Burkina Faso's Goudebo camp. Photo by: EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection / CC BY-NC-ND

The United Nations has put a price tag on the cost of providing aid to the people of Africa’s Sahel region this year: about $1.7 billion. So far, less than one-fifth of this amount has been funded.

Against this backdrop, the United States has announced an additional $51 million in humanitarian aid to the people of the Sahel — a belt up to 1,000 kilometers wide that spans Africa from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea — bringing its total aid to $520 million to date.

“This new humanitarian assistance will assist food insecure and conflict-affected populations in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement. “We remain deeply concerned about the humanitarian crisis in the Sahel and urge others to contribute generously for humanitarian operations.”

The aid will provide food to the region’s people and protection to refugees and internally displaced persons.

This year, the United Nations appeals for about $1.7 billion in funding to address the “triple crisis” in the Sahel region, comprising Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, the Gambia, Cameroon and Nigeria.

Widespread droughts in 2011, the exodus of people from Mali due to the ongoing crisis in that country, and the waning resilience of the region’s people due to the compounding crises are all factors that have placed about 17 million in need of assistance.

To bring the issue into sharp focus, every person in the region — if funding was spread equally — would need about $105 this year to cover basic needs and be protected from such factors as displacement.

However, so far the international community has only provided about $19 per person. As of March 26, only 18 percent or $309 million of the appeal was funded, according to data from U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The funding, however, is not spread evenly among the eight countries in the Sahel region.

The Gambia, which is estimated to need about $15 million — the smallest appeal among the Sahel region’s nations this year — has yet to receive a single dollar, threatening to exacerbate the realities of drought and malnutrition on the ground.

Across sectors, water, sanitation and early recovery remain underfunded. Only 2 percent of the required $112 million for water and sanitation and 3 percent of the $32 million appeal for early recovery have so far been funded.

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About the author

  • John Alliage Morales

    As a former Devex staff writer, John Alliage Morales covered the Americas, focusing on the world's top donor hub, Washington, and its aid community. Prior to joining Devex, John worked for a variety of news outlets including GMA, the Philippine TV network, where he conducted interviews, analyzed data, and produced in-depth stories on development and other topics.