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Risk of spread of COVID-19 increases in the Sahel

11 May 2020


World Food Programme food distribution in Kaya, Burkina Faso. Credit: WFP/Mahamady Ouedraogo  

Nearly 2,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Chad and Mauritania.

There is a high risk of the virus spreading in the Sahel region as the health system there has been weakened by conflict and insecurity.

In conflict-affected areas of Mali, almost a quarter of all health facilities are not functioning. Those that are functioning often do not have the required equipment and treatment capacity.

In Burkina Faso, the situation is similar, with 12 per cent of health facilities not functioning.

The Sahel is also home to a large number of internally displaced people – about 880,000 in Burkina Faso and more than 220,000 in Mali. Containing the virus would be difficult if it spreads to displacement sites. 

The pandemic is also aggravating food insecurity in the Sahel. More than 13 million people could suffer from severe food insecurity by August, without including projections from the impact of COVID-19.

Humanitarian access to hard-to-reach areas and to people in need of humanitarian assistance is challenging.

To facilitate humanitarian access, Humanitarian Country Teams have adopted a strategic and coordinated approach to access negotiations with national authorities.

Food assistance is being distributed in line with virus exposure prevention measures. Displaced people and the families hosting them are also receiving hygiene kits. There are also plans to reorganize the settlements for the internally displaced.

Donors are being urged to urgently fund the Sahel Humanitarian Response Plans, which have so far only received 11 per cent of the US$2.6 billion requested.

More information is also available in the updated Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID-19.