The UN said Thursday prolonged crises and widespread violence in Nigeria’s Lake Chad region and Sahel Africa could fuel a humanitarian challenge for 24 million people, half of them children. 

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said rapid deteriorating of the Sahel crisis was driving humanitarian needs across the region to unprecedented levels.

The Sahel is the area between the Sahara Desert to the north and the Sudanian Savanna to the south. 

“In 2020, 24 million Sahelians, half of them children, need life-saving assistance and protection – the highest number ever recorded,” it said.

Nigeria battles to end more than a decade of Boko Haram terrorism which has forced 3 million people to flee their homes and farmlands around the Lake Chad shore.

UN humanitarian agencies and nongovernmental organizations with representatives from Nigeria, Mali and Niger held a virtual meeting Thursday to garner international support for the situation in Sahel Africa.

“The clock is ticking for what is an unprecedented displacement and protection crisis in this region. Hundreds of thousands of people have already been driven from their homes and now face the added uncertainty brought by the coronavirus,” Millicent Mutuli, Director of UNHCR’s Regional Bureau for West and Central Africa said in the meeting.

It said the COVID-19 effect could drive the humanitarian crisis to an unprecedented level if interventions for the millions of residents are delayed.

The UN said the humanitarian situation requires $2.8 billion to assist 17 million residents and $638 million for COVID-19 responses in the region.

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