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Sahel at 'breaking point' as donors pledge billions in aid

The UN Secretary General has warned that the Sahel region is at a breaking point as donors pledged more that €1 billion to help the crisis-hit African region.

International donors on Tuesday agreed to give €1.4 billion ($1.7 billion) in aid to the central Sahel, which the UN said was close to 'breaking point.'

Conditions in the sub-Saharan belt spanning Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger are worsening, with 13.4 million people in need of assistance.

Donors agreed "to help stem what would otherwise become one of the world's biggest humanitarian crises," the UN said in a statement.

Denmark hosted the virtual summit, in partnership with Germany and the EU, in Copenhagen.

"The central Sahel region is at a breaking point," UN Secretary General said in a video message. "It is a warning sign for us all requiring urgent attention and resolution.

Guterres said violence was on the rise and internal displacement had increased 20-fold in less than two years.

The number of families facing hunger has tripled, the UN chief added, while climate and the COVID-19 pandemic threatens livelihoods.

"We need to reverse this downward spiral with a renewed push for peace and reconciliation," Guterres said.

Twenty-two countries pledged money to the fund, along with the European Union. The US offered €230 million, the EU pledged €105 million, while Germany gave €102 million.

The UN said the funds would help some 10 million people for the remainder of 2020 and through 2021 with nutrition, food, health services, water, sanitation, education, and shelter.

Officials at the UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said an estimated 7.4 million people are struggling with crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity during the current lean season.

Compared to the average of the past five years, acute food insecurity has increased 514% in Burkina Faso, 130% in Mali and 144% in Niger.

The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance between January and August 20202 rose from 4.3 million to 6.2 million, or one in three people in the crisis-hit region.

jf/aw (AFP, Reuters)

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