The UK government announced on Tuesday that it was going to provide £37.65-million in urgent humanitarian aid to agencies and programmes operating in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin regions of West Africa. The specific countries that will benefit will be Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger and Nigeria.
Of this amount, £19.9-million will go to the Sahel Humanitarian Assistance and Protection Programme (Shapp). This has been meeting the most acute humanitarian needs in the region, including aiding women and children who have been displaced and are suffering from malnutrition.
In parallel, north-eastern Nigeria will benefit from £15-million in emergency humanitarian funding over the next few months. There are currently 8.4-million people in that area who require food and other humanitarian assistance, because of violence and displacement, climate “shocks” and poverty. (The UK is also working with the Nigerian government to rebuild security in the north of the country.)
“Millions of people across the Sahel and West Africa are unimaginably suffering with hunger and malnutrition,” highlighted UK Minister for Africa (equivalent to a Deputy Minister in South Africa) Vicky Ford. “That’s why the UK will step up with an urgent £38-million of humanitarian funding, reaching those most vulnerable and saving lives across the region. The number of people facing starvation are at their worst for a decade. Whilst this UK funding is a necessity, it has to be part of a bigger international effort. We’re calling on international partners to enhance our collective support and scale-up intervention to halt this humanitarian catastrophe.”
The money assigned to Shapp will fund operations by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Sahel Regional Fund (which is run by an international group of non-governmental organisations or NGOs), the United Nations (UN) Humanitarian Air Service and the International NGO Safety Organisation. Over the period from 2019 to 2022 these agencies, working together in the then Sahel Humanitarian Emergency Response Programme, provided food assistance to 2.7-million people, treated almost 900 000 severely malnourished children, and made certain that more than 1.5-million mothers were able to detect malnutrition in their children, allowing early intervention action.
The funding designated for north-east Nigeria will go to two UN agencies: the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children’s Fund (more usually and better known as UNICEF). The UK government press release made the point of stating that the WFP and UNICEF aid workers “put themselves at great risk in order to reach those suffering most”.
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