Donors pledge $1.7 billion for Burkina Faso, Mail and Niger

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File-This June 4, 2020, file photo shows Women and children walk in a makeshift site for displaced people in Kongoussi, Burkina Faso. The U.N. humanitarian chief, Mark Lowcock, is hoping a major ministerial meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2020, will not only raise a billion dollars for the three countries at the epicenter of a humanitarian crisis in Africas Sahel region -- Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger -- but spur leaders to address the underlying drivers including increasing conflict and insecurity, weak governance, and a lack of development (AP Photo/Sam Mednick, File)

TANZANIA – More than 20 donors pledged nearly $1 billion for the three countries at the epicenter of a humanitarian crisis in Africa’s Sahel region for this year and over $700 million for 2021 and beyond, the United Nations announced Tuesday.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the funds will help some 10 million people in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger for the remainder of this year and through next year with nutrition, food, health services, water and sanitation, shelter, education, protection and support to survivors of gender-based violence.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the high-level virtual donors meeting co-sponsored by the U.N., Denmark, Germany and the European Union that “the central Sahel region is at a breaking point” and humanitarian needs in the border region of the three countries “have reached record levels.”

“The security situation has deteriorated sharply, harshly affecting people’s daily lives,” he said. “Violence is rising, and women and girls are especially vulnerable. Internal displacement has increased twenty-fold in less than two years. Climate change is threatening people’s livelihoods. And COVID-19 is making all of it worse.”

The U.N. chief said this downward spiral “is a microcosm of cascading global risks converging in one region,” and needs to be reversed with a renewed push for peace and reconciliation.

U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock reiterated that “nowhere in the world worries me as much as the Sahel in the medium-term.” And he again expressed fear that the region “is very close to a tipping point, with ripple effects that could reach neighboring countries and further afield.”

Lowcock said more than 13 million people in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger need emergency assistance to survive, including 5 million children.

Before the meeting, he told The Associated Press that the troubling situation in the three countries is a symptom of failure to deal with a broad range of political, security and development challenges, as well as rapid population growth and climate change.