Quick-fix approach rather than addressing long-term disaster prevention (IRIN News)

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SAHEL: Donors learning funding lessons – slowly

This year donors are stepping up more quickly to meet Sahel’s humanitarian needs compared to 2010, when they were slow to respond. However, they are still at fault for taking a quick-fix approach rather than addressing long-term disaster prevention and resilience needs, say aid groups.

As of now, over US$150 million has been pledged to respond to food insecurity, drought and nutrition needs in the Sahel, whereas at the same point in 2010 donors were doing “almost nothing”, said Amadou Sow in the Africa coordination division of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

As early as December 2011 aid agencies and national governments campaigned for aid, while OCHA released its emergency appeal – whereas in the 2010 crisis this was not released until April, far later in the lean season.

The European Commission (EC) has directed $138 million to the region, according to Cyprien Fabre, head of ECHO (EU aid body) in West Africa, who says there is “great commitment at the EU level”, with the development and humanitarian commissioners working closely together on the Sahel crisis. The EU is also expected to release longer-term funding soon.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) meanwhile, has channeled $25.5 million to the World Food Programme in Niger and Chad and is standing by to target money to other agencies; France and the UK Department for International Development have each directed $10 million towards five Sahelian countries without yet specifying what is going where; the UN Central Emergency Response Fund has released $16 million of start-up funding; while Sweden, Germany, Austria and other donors have allotted smaller sums.

Most of these figures are not yet reflected in the OCHA financial tracking system which currently states that the Chad and Niger appeals are respectively 7 and 15 percent funded.

While such pledges are welcomed, the EC Humanitarian Commissioner, Kristalina Georgieva, recently said a conservative estimate of the needs over the next six months would be 500 million euros [US$654 million], “so there is clearly a considerable gap to fill,” noted Stephen Cockburn, West Africa campaigns and policy manager at Oxfam.

Avoid repeat mistakes

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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