Sahel: Security concerns obscuring five-country humanitarian emergency

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Dakar/Geneva (ICRC) – The precarious security situation in Africa's Sahel region is overshadowing a massive humanitarian crisis affecting 12 million people in five countries, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said today.

Armed conflict, trans-national crime and climate hazards are causing immense human suffering, triggering an increase in intra-African displacement and migration toward Europe from the five countries -- Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad.

"The focus in the Sahel is on security issues, but this obscures a major tragedy: millions of families who are hungry and desperate for survival," Patrick Youssef, ICRC's deputy director for Africa, said during the Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security in Africa.

"If we do not help the region on the humanitarian and development side, the consequences will be serious, including more displacement. Many of these locations are already strong breeding grounds for radicalization and extremism," Youssef added.

The ongoing conflicts in the Lake Chad region and Mali, combined with the activities of armed groups across borders, have serious consequences for neighboring Burkina Faso and Mauritania. The region's challenges are exacerbated by climate change, poverty and food shortages. Three-quarters of the region's 80 million people are under age 35, and while job opportunities are already scarce, the population is expected to double in 30 years.

"States must act now with the help of the international community to address the root causes of the problems and help strengthen the resilience of people here," Youssef said. "Ensuring civilians are not harmed in conflict and ensuring detainees are treated with respect both help bring a lasting end to conflict."

The ICRC is helping more than 1.5 million people in the five countries by providing improved seeds, tools, fertilizers, livestock fodder and livestock vaccinations. Despite the pressing needs, the region is one of the most under-funded that ICRC works in globally.

For further information, please contact:

Jean-Yves Clemenzo, ICRC Dakar, +221 786398629
Jason Straziuso, ICRC Geneva, +41 79 217 32 05

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