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Crisis In The Sahel Continues

A girl walks by a building pockmarked with bullet holes from fighting in Gao, Mali, Mar. 13 2013.

In 2012, about 18.7 million people throughout the Sahel region struggled with food insecurity and the affects of conflict.

In 2012, about 18.7 million people throughout the Sahel region— comprising areas in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, The Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal— struggled with food insecurity and the affects of conflict.

Crisis In The Sahel Continues
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The problems facing the people living in this semi-arid land are caused by more than just one poor harvest and to help them bridge the season of hunger and mitigate the impacts of conflict, the United States has provided the countries of the Sahel, over 150 million dollars in humanitarian aid in the past six months.

“The countries of the Sahel face a complex series of inter-connected and ever-evolving challenges,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs Donald Yamamoto. “The 80 million people of the Sahel, representing roughly ten percent of sub-Saharan Africa's total population, live in some the world's poorest countries which consistently rank at the bottom of any human development scale.”

Speaking before three U.S. House of Representatives subcommittees on May 21st, Assistant Secretary Yamamoto said that recent upheaval in North Africa has made the situation worse:

“The security vacuum following the Libyan revolution and the crisis in Mali exacerbated the Sahel's longstanding political, economic, and security vulnerabilities. Instability in Mali and increased arms flow from Libya into the region also collided with humanitarian crisis brought on by drought, poor harvest in the region, already burdened by chronic poverty and food insecurity.”

Fighting in northern Mali, which began in early 2012, increased the pressure on an already fragile region as some 460,000 Malians were displaced, both internally and to neighboring countries.

“Addressing the Sahel's many challenging demands [requires] a comprehensive approach,” said Assistant Secretary Yamamoto. Thus the United States is working with regional governments and organizations to improve border security and deny free passage and unhindered operation to terrorists and transnational criminal networks.

“Improving governance, strengthening democratic institutions, increasing economic opportunities, particularly for the young, are therefore central to improving the Sahel's prospects for long-term stability and security” said Assistant Secretary Yamamoto. “The acute security and humanitarian challenges facing the Sahel today demand a robust international response,” he said.

The United States will continue working with Sahel countries to address the political, security and economic issues that render the Sahel susceptible to crisis and conflict.