Everyday life in a camp for internally displaced persons in Mopti, central Mali, which is home to around 40 families.
Photo: UN Photo/Marco Domino
Our humanitarian assistance in the Sahel region
The arid Sahel region runs like a band between the Sahara Desert and the more fertile parts of Africa closer to the equator. The countries in the Sahel region are among the poorest and least developed in the world. The food crisis is chronic and there are several on-going armed conflicts in the area.
The focus of the Swedish support in the Sahel region in 2017 is Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Mali.
A large part of the population in the Sahel region live on what they themselves grow, and they are therefore hit hard by natural disasters. The dry climate, lack of infrastructure, conflicts and recurrent famine disasters characterise the opportunities for these countries to develop. Lack of food, poor water and difficulties in maintaining good hygiene, together with malaria and other infectious diseases, mean that Sahel's child mortality rate is among the highest in the world. The UN estimates that 30 million people in the region were affected by malnutrition and/or starvation in 2016.
The population density in Sahel is low (one person per square kilometre), and the fact that borders between the countries are unclear and the state in most cases is weak, contributes to a situation where criminal gangs and armed groups can move relatively freely. There are on-going armed conflicts in several countries.
After a peace agreement was signed in Mali between the Government and Islamist groups in 2015, the situation – mainly in the cities – has stabilised, but the situation is still uncertain. The terrorist group Boko Haram in Nigeria and unrest in Borno State spill over into the neighbouring countries Niger, Chad and Cameroon. The number of internally displaced persons amounts to several hundred thousand. They have been forced to move away from the border areas due to terrorist attacks. Continued unrest in the Central African Republic means that refugees in Chad and Cameroon cannot return home.
Sida's support to the Sahel region
For several years, the Sahel region has been one of Sida’s biggest areas for humanitarian assistance. Sida's humanitarian support to the countries in the region amounted to SEK 467 million in 2016. This money is mainly channelled through the UN system and international voluntary organisations. The support involves both saving people's lives and helping them to help themselves so that they will be better equipped for the next disaster. Sweden also provides personnel with expertise in humanitarian relief to various UN agencies through MSB (the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency).
Some examples of Sida's support
UNHCR Chad: The refugee crisis in Chad has been going on for over 15 years and the country has received more than 400,000 refugees from Sudan, the Central African Republic and Nigeria. As a way to give refugees more independence and break their dependency on aid, UNHCR is working through the project "Seeds for Solutions" to provide opportunities for refugees to start new businesses, animal husbandry or cultivations.
UN humanitarian coordination office, OCHA Niger: Coordination is key to making sure that humanitarian relief is delivered in the most efficient way possible. When around 100,000 Nigerians crossed the border to Diffa in eastern Niger, donor coordination was a precondition for effective humanitarian work and for people receiving the help they needed.
UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO: In order to break dependence on aid among internally displaced persons and refugees in Chad, FAO is working with an agricultural project that gives people the opportunity to become self-sufficient.
International Rescue Committee (IRC): In northern Cameroon, the IRC meets the basic needs of internally displaced persons for water, food and shelter when they are forced to flee, often without being able to take with them either livestock or possessions.