United Nations- The UN Special Envoy for the Sahel , Ms Guebre Sellassie has said that the proliferation of militant groups and “disquieting” levels of food insecurity in the Sahel has become increasingly fragile.
The special envoy said this on Thursday in New York while briefing the Security Council.
Sellassie in her end of year briefing to the 15-member body, urged the international community to ramp up its efforts towards helping the diverse and troubled region.
“The security situation in the Sahel continues to be impacted by the crisis in Libya, northern Nigeria, northern Mali and the Central African Republic,” Sellassie said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that Sellassie had earlier updated the Council in June with a similar bleak overview of the situation in the Sahel, a vast expanse of territory stretching from Mauritania to Eritrea, including Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan.
She explained that the region was facing an added threat as reports that Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants had established a bulwark in the Libyan Desert.
“The persistent allegations that the Islamic State has set up training camps in Libya are particularly worrisome.
”If the situation in Libya is not quickly brought under control, many states in the region could be destabilised in the near future,” she said.
Coupled with the ISIL threat, Sellassie warned was the deteriorating security situation in northern Mali where deadly attacks targeting UN “blue helmets” and communities living along the border with Niger were steadily intensifying.
This, she said, came in spite of progress achieved in the inter-Malian talks held in the Algerian capital of Algiers and an agreement by peacekeeping countries to strengthen regional security cooperation.
In addition, instability in Nigeria’s north also endangered the wider region as “unspeakable Boko Haram atrocities” continued to pose a threat to some Sahel communities and countries.
As a result of the militant groups’ continuing operations, an estimated 100,000 people had fled into Niger’s Diffa region, further exacerbating the Sahel’s humanitarian situation which remained “disquieting.”
“Five million more people have become food insecure since the last reporting period.
”The number of children affected by acute malnutrition in the Sahel also increased from five million in January to 6.4 million as at today,” Sellassie said.
According to her, spiraling insecurity and conflicts has already displaced some 3.3 million people, amounting to a two-fold increase from January.
She also said that an overall 1.9 billion dollars humanitarian appeal for the region continued to remain underfunded.
She however said that “some progress” had been achieved, including a EU-led partnership which has continued to provide “a critical framework for regional cooperation on resilience”; a UN Development Programme (UNDP) initiative.
The UNDP programme, she said was aimed at supporting Mali to mainstream social cohesion in its delivery of social services.
She noted that the Programme was also aimed at helping to build the capacity of government institutions in Mauritania and Niger on conflict prevention and the protection of human rights.
She also said that a UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) plan had been introduced to support the development of accessible, efficient and accountable criminal justice systems across the Sahel, a region criss-crossed by drug trafficking and illicit trade.
In spite of the “important and necessary steps” taken by the international community and regional partners in boosting the Sahel’s security and economic outlook, Sellassie cautioned that member states could not afford to become distracted from the perilous situation on the ground.
“The Sahel region continues to face multifaceted challenges to peace and development.
“Given the deterioration of the political and security situation in the region and the adverse impact on humanitarian and development gains, the need for sustaining Security Council attention on the Sahel is greater than ever,” she added.(NAN)