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European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 17 June 2013

More help for victims of Sahel crisis: European Commission increases humanitarian aid

The European Commission is responding to growing humanitarian needs in the Sahel region of Africa by increasing its support with an additional €69 million. The new funds will provide food assistance, clean water and access to basic health services to women and children suffering from hunger and food insecurity. It will also help vulnerable people affected by the conflict in Mali as well as refugees in Chad fleeing conflict in neighbouring countries.

"To save lives and help communities live through the crisis that continues to grip the Sahel we need to intensify our aid," said Kristalina Georgieva, the European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response. She is currently visiting humanitarian projects in Chad, one of the Sahel countries which is facing a complex crisis.

This latest funding announcement brings the Commission's emergency assistance in the Sahel to €184 million since January. €53 million of the new money will go on emergency relief for people affected by the overall Sahel food and nutrition crisis. A further €4 million will assist refugees from Sudan and returning Chadians fleeing fighting across the border and €12 million has been committed to the on-going crisis in Mali.

There are alarming signs that the Sahel as a whole will again be hit by a severe food and nutrition crisis this year. Thousands of people in Mali continue to need humanitarian aid because of an eighteen-month crisis which combines the political crisis that started in early 2012, the fighting this triggered in the North, and a food crisis. Four and a half million children under five years of age are currently at high risk of acute malnutrition in the region.

"The food and nutrition emergency has been aggravated by the impact of the conflict in Mali, but also by natural disasters in the region. We cannot forget that other crises, for example in Darfur and in South Sudan, still continue to hit countries in the Sahel. The arrival of new refugees, particularly in Chad, exacerbates this situation. Even as we help the most vulnerable survive, we must also help build their resilience – that's the only effective and sustainable way to address food insecurity and malnutrition. New funds are essential to make this possible," Commissioner Georgieva said.

Last year an international humanitarian response to drought in the Sahel, led inter alia by the European Union, averted a major hunger crisis and provided life-saving nutritional care to more than a million severely malnourished children. The European Commission is pioneering a new approach to breaking the cycle of hunger through building the resilience of vulnerable communities to the impact of climate change, which in turn is provoking more frequent and intense droughts.

Background

The Sahel region has been hit by severe food and nutrition crises in 2005, 2010 and 2012. Last year a major catastrophe was averted only thanks to the quick response of governments in the region, the massive mobilization of aid agencies and the emergency funding made available early on by the EU and other major donors.

The situation in the region remains alarming. Severe acute malnutrition rates continue to surpass emergency thresholds in many regions of Chad, Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal and Nigeria. Recent floods in Niger and Nigeria, which is the bread-basket of West Africa, have aggravated a crisis already exacerbated by the conflict in Mali. The demand for nutritional care and supplementary feeding continues to be huge, with 1.4 million children expected to suffer from the severest form of malnutrition. More than ten million people are also facing food shortages.

Chad is one of the countries in the Sahel which has been hit simultaneously by several crises. 2.1 million people do not have enough food to sustain themselves. Half of this number is experiencing severe malnutrition.

Since the beginning of 2013, this complex emergency has involved more than 55 000 conflict-related refugees from Darfur and Central African Republic, as well as internally displaced people and returning Chadians. Most of these new refugees and returnees are women and children. The Commission´s funds allocated to Chad will assist the most vulnerable at new sites, as the existing camps cannot host all the new arrivals.

Since the beginning of the Sahel crisis in 2012, the European Commission has mobilised €521 million in emergency aid for both the Sahel and Mali crises. The EU’s early and substantial humanitarian response to the food crisis and the conflict has helped guarantee access to basic health and nutrition services, clean water, shelter and food for some of the most badly hit and vulnerable people in the region.

In parallel to its emergency aid, the EU is also promoting, in concert with governments of the region and international partners, an ambitious project to build the resilience of the most vulnerable people in the Sahel through the AGIR-Sahel Alliance. To this end, the European Commission recently announced its intention of mobilizing € 1.5 bn in EU development funding from 2014 to 2020.

For more information

The European Commission's humanitarian aid and civil protection:

http://ec.europa.eu/echo/index_en.htm

Commissioner Georgieva's website:

http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/georgieva/index_en.htm

Contacts :

Irina Novakova (+32 2 295 75 17)

David Sharrock (+32 2 296 89 09)


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