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Press release


G5 Sahel summit : Civilians should be the priority in military discussions

The discussion on the effectiveness and legitimacy of the French intervention in the Sahel must not conceal the lack of protection faced by the civilian population, who are caught in the crossfire between armed groups, militias and national or international security forces.

“The military response in the Sahel is part of the problem. Last year, military operations in Mali have pushed more than 80,000 people to flee. Engagement in the Sahel must put the protection of the populations at the heart of the response”, says Maureen Magee, NRC Regional Director.

Given the gravity of the situation, political and military actors must first assume their responsibilities towards the civilian population by guaranteeing respect for International Humanitarian Law and protect people without discrimination. There is a need to urgently increase the humanitarian response, while also support lasting solutions for the displaced, functioning justice systems and basic social services.

“Mass displacement, more than half a million people since the start of 2019, has contributed to almost a tripling of the number of people in food and nutritional insecurity in the central Sahel, “says Mamadou Diop, Regional Director of Action Against Hunger.

“We have no access to water, we have no shelter, no resources. I can’t eat every day. Without humanitarian aid I can’t provide for my family,” said Victorine from Burkina Faso.

Despite massive investments in military interventions in the Sahel, violence increased in 2019. The year ended tragically with a massacre in Arbinda, Burkina Faso on Christmas Eve, which killed 35 civilians, including 31 women. “It’s clear that a solely military response does not work. We must invest in non-military solutions with and for affected communities, and urgently mobilize to address the exploding humanitarian needs,” said Adama Coulibaly, Oxfam Regional Director.

Due to lack of funding in 2019, humanitarian organisations are struggling to meet the needs of vulnerable people in the Sahel.

Spokespersons are available for interviews in the region.

Hassane Hamadou,

Country Director for the Norwegian Refugee Council in Mali.
Email: Tel: +223 75 99 54 14

Claire Le Privé,

Regional media and communication advisor – West Africa for Oxfam International.
Email: Phone: +221 78 140 47 93 WhatsApp: +33623174972


Notes to editors:

The Sahel crisis in numbers:

· The number of victims attacks by armed groups has increased fivefold in three years in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. More than 4,000 deaths from this violence were reported in 2019 in these 3 countries, compared to 770 deaths in 2016 (source: UN).

· In Mali, military operations pushed 80 000 people to move in 2019 (source: NRC)

· Since January, more than 1,500 civilians have been killed in Mali and Burkina Faso

· In 2019, more than a million people – twice as many as last year – were displaced within the borders of the five countries of the Sahel

· According to the consolidated results of the Humanitarian needs overview conducted in the 16 countries of the Sahel and West Africa, including Cameroon, nearly 10.8 million people are in dire food insecurity (Ph3-5) in the period from October to December 2019 (4.2 million Ph3-5 in the G5 Sahel countries, i.e. 5% of the situation in a crisis situation or worse). According to projections for the next lean period (June to August 2020), this figure could reach 15.5 million (for the G5 Sahel countries, 6.6 million, or 8% of the population).

· French humanitarian aid in the G5 Sahel countries represented only 2.3% of French humanitarian aid worldwide in 2017 (source: Creditor Reporting System of the OECD);

· French humanitarian aid in the G5 Sahel countries represented only 0.6% of French ODA in these same countries in 2017 (source: Creditor Reporting System of the OECD);

· Only half of the United Nations humanitarian response plan in Mali was funded in 2019: France contributed only 1.5% of the funds, while Germany contributed 9.5% (source: Financial Tracking system)

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