The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is calling for innovative solutions to restore the right to aid and protection for millions of people in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria affected by armed conflict and climate change.
A new emergency report produced by the IRC in West Africa, based on the annual Emergency Watchlist (an assessment of 20 countries at greatest risk of new or worsening humanitarian emergencies produced by the IRC), shines a light on the alarming deterioration of the humanitarian crises in the region. The IRC has identified three accelerators of the crises being played out in the region: conflict, climate change, and economic turmoil.
Climate change worsens the intensity and frequency of climate-related disasters. In Mali, subsequent droughts have changed people’s access to natural resources, mainly water and land, and have disrupted livelihoods. Communities vulnerable to political instability and economic shocks are once again impacted by the climate crisis without the resources and ability to cope and recover. With soil arid and unable to absorb water, nearly 6 million people in these five countries have been affected by the worst floods in decades, forcing 2.6 million people alone to flee across the region. The floods destroyed about 400,000 houses, granaries, and fields, which people in this region heavily rely on as a source of food and livelihood.
While the economic crisis is limiting the resources of many families, more and more people are being displaced by conflict and climate change
Across these five countries, if adequate resources are not put into the humanitarian response, 34.5 million people are projected not to have access to enough food between June and September 2023. Along with hunger, malnutrition is rising in these five countries, with an even higher prevalence in countries that are more exposed to natural disasters. In Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria, the nutritional status of children under five is going from bad to worse, today the numbers have increased by almost 20% compared to 2021.
Modou Diaw, Regional Director for the IRC West Africa, said:
“While the economic crisis is limiting the resources of many families, more and more people are being displaced by conflict and climate change. Thousands of people are at risk of starvation if access to adequate quality and quantity of food is not assured quickly. Over 9,000 schools are closed in the region, depriving children of a chance to seize full control over their future. People urgently need access to basic social services and natural resources. To break the cycle of crisis, access to basic social services is imperative to re-establish people’s right to aid.
The IRC is calling for a paradigm shift to enable affected Sahelian populations to regain access to education, health, water, and food:
- Increase access to basic social services for people affected by conflict by scaling up innovative responses that bring back services at the heart of the community through the strengthening of local skills, simplifying and anticipating the responses.
- Re-establish people’s right to aid by strengthening dialogue with all parties to conflicts and the acceptance of humanitarian actors at the country level.
- Break the vicious circle of crisis by providing sufficient flexible and long-term funding based on a people-first strategy centered on communities in need, allowing responses to adapt to changes in context, and breaking down the climate-humanitarian divide.
Faced with this reality in the five countries of the West Africa Emergency Report, the IRC has begun to act with innovative and sustainable projects that reduce the cost of the response to save and support the maximum number of populations impacted by conflict, climate change and economic turmoil. These programs focus on the needs of the most vulnerable populations and focus on prevention and response to violence, conflict, health and nutrition, governance, security, and economic recovery.