Major international donor conference fails to acknowledge the needs of children caught up in conflicts, disasters, and COVID-19
The ministerial conference on Central Sahel that ended on Tuesday, Oct 20, has failed to acknowledge the unique needs of children in the Sahel region, warns Save the Children.
This year’s virtual donor conference in Copenhagen raised £1.3 billion to respond to the humanitarian crisis. The aim for the conference was £1.8 billion for 2020 and early 2021.
Save the Children has been present in the Sahel region in Africa since the early 1980s and welcomes the pledges from the international community to respond to the growing crisis but highlights concerns that children’s perspectives, needs and experiences were vastly underrepresented in the conference, despite being among the most vulnerable groups caught up in the crisis.
In recent years the UK has increased its support to the region both diplomatically and financially. Despite this, civilians in the region are worse off in 2020 than at any time in the previous decade. They are more likely to need humanitarian aid, be displaced, face food insecurity or die from conflict. For too long the world has focused overwhelmingly on hard security with little regard for the steps needed to meet people’s humanitarian needs.
Kevin Watkins, CEO of Save the Children UK, said:
“In a region where conflicts, disasters and COVID-19 are impacting on millions of civilians across Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, this investment from the international community is highly welcome.
“However, creating the space for children to share their experiences is critical to ensuring we can understand – and effectively respond to – their needs. in central Sahel one out of two people are under 15 years old, and their voices were not heard during the conference.
“Last week, Save the Children colleagues heard from Odette, a young girl from Mali who spoke of the growing insecurity she faces as the conflict escalates and the pandemic continues to deal a heavy blow to an already extremely fragile health system, compounding the vulnerabilities of children.
“The UK and other governments should stand in solidarity with Odette and her peers. By pledging funds to the humanitarian response, and by using its diplomatic influence, including through its upcoming deployment of peacekeeping troops to Mali, the UK can help put protection of civilians at the top of the agenda for the international response.
“The pledges announced today will be essential to respond to this unprecedented crisis – but we need to make sure they will respond to the diverse and specific needs of children. With a population of more than 30 million young people and an average age of 17, this is a children’s crisis - and we must put their education and protection first.”
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