In 2012, the West Africa region experienced a severe food security crisis across the Sahel. Early 2012 was marked by the political upheaval in Mali, which led to a significant displacement of people within and outside the country. Torrential rains and floods ravaged Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal, while cholera and meningitis outbreaks killed tens of thousands of people in Burkina Faso, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Niger.
Some 18.7 million people across nine Sahel countries were food insecure in 2012. This was due to the 2011 poor rains and harvest, high prices of basic commodities, chronic institutional weaknesses and regional sociopolitical instability. More than 1.1 million of those people were children at risk of dying of severe acute malnutrition.
An RHC was appointed to strengthen and ensure regional leadership in response to this crisis, including advocating timely and flexible financing. ROWCA’s work focused on providing support to the RHC and the various Resident and Humanitarian Coordinators (RC/HCs) and Humanitarian Country Teams (HCTs) in the region (Burkina Faso, the Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria and Senegal). ROWCA deployed staff (totalling 1,014 days) to support the response; strengthen and establish HCTs and clusters; develop humanitarian websites in Burkina Faso, Mali and Mauritania; and manage Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) requests and other funding appeals. At the regional level, ROWCA facilitated the development of a regional preparedness-and-response strategy for the Sahel, which was the backbone for mobilizing over US$1.1 billion, or 70 per cent of the total requirements, for the response to the crisis.
The political crisis in Mali complicated an already fragile humanitarian and social context, in which 4.6 million people were already considered food insecure, 175,000 children suffered from severe acute malnutrition and 385,000 children suffered from moderate acute malnutrition. Human rights violations, committed by different actors, were reported throughout the year and across the country. These factors led to the significant displacement of people within and outside Mali. As of December 2012, 198,555 people were registered as internally displaced and 153,623 refugees were registered in neighbouring countries (37,626 in Burkina Faso, 54,117 in Mauritania and 61,880 in Niger). ROWCA staff surged for a combined 341 days to Mali to establish and support the coordination structures; to facilitate early assessments of humanitarian needs; to coordinate the opening of an OCHA Country Office in Mali; and to support the development of CERF requests and the Mali Consolidated Appeal.
ROWCA promoted disaster preparedness and risk reduction through the delivery of minimum preparedness packages to HCTs and Governments in the region. This included the development of the Mali+ Scenarios, a document that was the basis for the risk analysis in the contingency plans of Mali’s neighbouring countries. Inter-agency contingency plans were developed or updated in Burkina Faso, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria and Senegal. Simulation exercises were carried out in Senegal.
A five-year action plan to strengthen disaster preparedness and response was endorsed during an ECCAS ministerial meeting in June 2012 in Libreville, Gabon. This was the result of two years of work by OCHA and the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, and a follow-up committee of four ECCAS civil protection and disaster management services.
ROWCA and regional partners supported ECOWAS to prepare its three-year humanitarian action plan and the humanitarian policy framework, which was endorsed in March 2012. These forums are particularly important, as they build on the comparative advantages of the different institutions. In addition, two meetings were held (July and December) between ECOWAS and regional humanitarian actors to discuss the situation in Mali, and to find a common situation analysis and approach to responding to the crisis. Civil-military coordination is one of the key outcomes of these consultations.
ROWCA provided information management services and tools to humanitarian partners in Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mauritania, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal. With key regional cluster leads, it developed key performance monitoring indicators at the regional level and common operational datasets for the 2012 priority countries. ROWCA also maintained an integrated and updated contact management directory covering over 3,000 partners in 20 countries. This complements the 3W (Who, What, Where) database and the humanitarianresponse.info web portals for Mali and Mauritania. Basic and thematic maps and snapshots were created and updated regularly, with priority given to emergency situations.