Action is needed to save the lives of millions of women and girls across Africa’s Sahel region amid a humanitarian crisis and gender-based violence, a leading humanitarian organization said Monday. 

“In less than two years, violence and insecurity in Central Sahel have driven 1.5 million people from their homes and 7.4 million people into acute hunger,” Care International said in a report. 

“Lockdowns and other COVID-19 prevention measures have pushed an additional 6 million people into extreme poverty,” it said. 

Ahead of the Central Sahel Conference on Tuesday, CARE called on donors and governments in the region to urgently increase funding to address the Central Sahel crisis and to make sure that gender-based violence is prioritized in the response. 

“The impact of gender-based violence, particularly against women, has been under-documented and under-resourced in Central Sahel,” Mahamoudou Guimbayara, CARE West Africa Regional Humanitarian Advocacy Coordinator, was quoted as saying in the report. 

“The region is also facing a real protection crisis where all civilians, but particularly women and girls, are seeing a sharp increase in many forms of violence, including gender-based violence,” he added. 

The report said that throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, women and women’s civil society “have been critical frontline responders and leaders in humanitarian response efforts. Yet the public health emergency has had a disproportionate impact on women and girls.” 

“COVID-19 has exacerbated pre-existing inequalities and resulted in alarming health and economic impacts for women and increased risk of gender-based violence,” it said. 

Care International said the existence of organizations that focus on women and girls is also threatened by a lack of funding for the pandemic and the other programs they were implementing.

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