International donors have announced more than $1.7 billion to scale up lifesaving humanitarian aid to millions of people in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger and to help stem what could otherwise become one of the world’s biggest humanitarian crises, according to a statement. 

Twenty-four governments and institutional donors announced the financial support on Tuesday at a virtual conference co-hosted by Denmark, Germany, the EU and the UN.

The funds will help some 10 million people in 2020 and 2021 with nutrition and food, health services, water and sanitation, shelter, education and protection, and provide support to survivors of gender-based violence (GBV), according to the statement.

Increased violence in the Central Sahel region has forced more than 1.5 million people to flee their homes—a twentyfold increase in two years. There are three times more acutely food insecure people today compared to one year ago, the statement said.

“The Central Sahel region is at a breaking point,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said. “We need to reverse this downward spiral with a renewed push for peace and reconciliation. We also need much more humanitarian aid. UN agencies and NGOs are on the ground to complement national humanitarian response efforts. With better funding, we can do much more.”

“All indicators are dark red. Sixteen million children, women and men could be facing hunger. We all need to recommit to principled humanitarian action. And we must ensure that all parties to the conflict uphold their obligations under international law and protect humanitarian personnel,” said German Foreign Affairs Minister Heiko Maas.

“We’ve seen a sharp deterioration over the past two years – humanitarian needs in the Central Sahel are higher than they have ever been,” said Mark Lowcock, the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.

In June, the Norwegian Refugee Council said Africa’s Sahel Region saw extreme violence this year, “yet with massively underfunded aid appeals.” Niger and Burkina Faso appeared on the list of the 10 most-neglected crises in the world for the first time.

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