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Humanitarian needs rise in the Sahel amid COVID-19

18 Jun 2020

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Food distribution in Ouahigouya, Burkina Faso, January 2020. Credit: OCHA/Cynthia Cano

Some 24 million people in the Sahel, half of them children, need life-saving assistance and protection in 2020 – the highest number ever recorded.

More than 4.5 million people are internally displaced or refugees – 1 million more than in 2019. Food insecurity and malnutrition are expected to spike to record peaks.

More than 12 million people are already facing a serious lack of food, the highest figure in a decade. The socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic risks doubling this number.

Almost 10 million children risk of acute malnutrition, including 3 million suffering from its most severe form. School closures, due to violence and lock-down measures, affect an entire generation.

In March, more than 11,500 schools were closed or non-operational due to violence across the Sahel, affecting more than 2.2 million children. With COVID-19, 71 million children are temporarily out of school.

Humanitarian access in the Sahel has become increasingly difficult. Growing insecurity deeply affects aid operations. The increasingly militarized and politicized response constitutes a major risk to principled humanitarian action.

Needs are outpacing the response and it is critical to step up efforts. Funding shortfalls are one of the most significant challenges to adequately deliver assistance.

Five months into 2020, only 18 per cent of the $2.8 billion requested for the six country Humanitarian Response Plans have been funded. The additional requirement to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic stands at $620 million, and is only 13 per cent funded.