UN humanitarian chief says Sahel epicenter of suffering

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UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 13 (Xinhua) -- People of the Sahel are at the epicenter of conflict and insecurity, weak governance, chronic underdevelopment, poverty, demographic pressures and climate change, the UN emergency relief coordinator said on Tuesday.

"Some people think the UN humanitarian chief should not be saying this, the state authorities in each country have to ensure control of their own territory," said UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock, speaking virtually to members of the Paris Institute of Political Studies.

"That means prosecuting a military response against the extremists and the organized criminals," he added in listing his "four pillars of necessary action" for the greater Sahel, an area home to 310 million people in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Niger, and the northeast of Nigeria.

"It is unrealistic to expect national or regional authorities to manage this on their own," Lowcock said. "More and better international help is essential."

More comprehensive, longer-term and larger-scale humanitarian support is needed, he said of his second pillar.

In March of last year, over 4 million people were displaced across the region and more than 22 million needed humanitarian assistance. Just 18 months later, displacement increased by 25 percent and the numbers in need of humanitarian assistance has risen by 50 percent.

"Third, there needs to be a much bigger investment in basic services, especially education, health, clean water, sanitation and family planning," the humanitarian coordinator said. "Healthier, better educated people can do much for themselves, which is greatly to be preferred to relying indefinitely on external support."

"Fourth, it must be clear that the region's historic traditional livelihoods, especially nomadic pastoralism or subsistence farming, will not be able to support populations of the size that will soon be living across Sahelian countries," Lowcock said. "That is the brutal consequence of climate change, resource pressures and demographic trends."

Next week, the United Nations, Germany, Denmark and the European Union will host a major conference on the central Sahel, Lowcock said. Leaders from the region and around the world will come together to pledge funds and make concrete policy commitments for the beleaguered area. Enditem

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