The number of people in need of assistance in Mali increased significantly between January and July 2019, according to OCHA-ONU (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), which estimates that this concerns “one in five people”! The number of displaced persons has risen from 84,300 to 168,500, 68,000 people are affected by the floods, particularly in the Timbuktu region, and agricultural activities are compromised in the Mopti region due to intercommunity tensions. And the Humanitarian Response Plan with a budget of 324 million dollars is only 30% funded at this stage!
We still remember this communiqué from the G7 and G5 Sahel in Biarritz at the end of August, which stated “We note that the urgent humanitarian needs of the Sahel are not being met”. Sad and overwhelming observation. At a meeting in New York on 25 September, Antonio Guterres said, “We are losing ground in the face of violence” and called for”…the promised funds for humanitarian assistance (…) to be effectively delivered”.
While the solution is of course a political one, allowing the humanitarian situation to deteriorate due to lack of sufficient funding will dangerously worsen people’s lives and the resulting tensions. In Mali, the epicentre of the Sahel crisis, a national needs analysis and humanitarian planning workshop for 2020 is scheduled for 1 and 2 October in Bamako. This is necessary, but current needs are not yet funded and global funding is now being sought. But who will take it seriously so that the relief effort can finally meet the vital needs of the people who are waiting for help?
Afghanistan, nothing new!
As the military option proved futile, Mr. Trump had “decided to lift this taboo” by engaging in direct peace negotiations with the Taliban. These were abruptly interrupted by the American President on September 7. Some people were pleased about this. But the remaining option is still war! It is true that these negotiations did not settle everything, including an inter-Afghan dialogue.
During the presidential election campaign on 28 September, President and re-election candidate Ashraf Ghani said, “Peace is our people’s first desire”. The media often report the longest war in the United States for 18 years. But this began in 1978 and was amplified from 1979 with the Soviet invasion. And since then, these wars have been fought with the same internal and external protagonists.
The presidential election with its 18 candidates is supposed to bring legitimacy to the winner and thus allow him to govern and make the long-awaited peace. It will be necessary to wait until 19 October to obtain the results of the vote of nearly 10 million Afghans out of 34 million inhabitants. In the meantime, we can simply remember that while the number of voters was 85% in 2004 for the first presidential elections in Afghanistan, this percentage was only 32% in 2009 and that the turnout was not reported in the 2014 elections where fraud was massive.
The main issue of this election lies precisely in the turnout and seems to confirm the observation of an observer that “Each election is worse than the previous one” in a context of high tension, if not a deadlock between the President and the Chief Executive between whom this election is being played again! Sources within the Independent Electoral Commission estimate that about 2 million Afghans would have gone to vote when the turnout is one of the major issues of this election and the reasons for abstention are insecurity, lack of confidence and the feeling of uselessness even to vote.
The situation seems to be well blocked while the needs of the population are immense in a country where 55% of the population lived two years ago on two dollars a day. A country affected by the drought that forced more people to leave their homes than the violence this year: 275,000 against 223,000.
And if, after the military and diplomatic impasse, Afghanistan were to find itself as if it were in a political impasse. In the meantime, the war unfortunately has a bright future ahead of it, but how far, at what human cost and with what outcome.
Humanitarian aid in the face of climate change!
In 2018, 17.2 million people were forced to flee due to natural disasters, most often climate-related, according to the Observatory on Situations of Internal Displacement. 764,000 is the number of people uprooted due to drought, particularly in Afghanistan and Somalia. 150 million is the estimated number of displaced people in 2050 according to World Bank estimates if nothing is done to stop this warming!
And yet, the exceptional United Nations Climate Summit ended on Monday 23 September without significant commitments from the main polluters. Let us not forget that the European Union is the third largest polluter in the world after China and the United States. As Antonio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, said, “the highest cost is the cost of inaction”.
However, the deadline is approaching. After the commitments made in 2015 by 196 signatory countries to the Paris Agreement (COP21), 2020 corresponds both to the year of implementation of the Agreement and to new plans to reduce CO2 emissions. COP25 and COP26 in 2020 in Glasgow are major deadlines to limit global warming by the end of the century to 2° if not 1.5° to avoid the worst.
The purpose of emergency humanitarian aid is to save lives in conflicts and disasters. But humanitarian aid is now facing climatic displacement following disasters amplified by global warming: drought, floods, hurricanes, hurricanes, sea-level rise with countless serious consequences for health, food and water availability in a context of increasing populations, particularly along the coasts and in Africa.
It is Mabingue Ngom, Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for West and Central Africa, who warns us: “Lake Chad has lost 90 to 95% of its surface area since 1970 due to climate change, while the population of this basin has increased three or fourfold at the same time”. We also now know the role of global warming and drought in the conflicts in Darfur and Syria, which raises the issue of climate and security.
In this context, humanitarian action based on the principle of “doing no harm” can no longer be avoided by reducing the environmental footprint of each organization and the implementation of projects for the population. In addition, humanitarian workers must invest in research to adapt people’s living conditions to global warming and in innovation to meet it at the lowest cost and with local technical control.
Finally, more than ever, the process between the emergency, reconstruction and development phases is relevant in responding to a warming trend that is increasing over time.
As the NGOs of the “Réseau pour la prévention des risques de catastrophe” (REPR: CARE, French Red Cross, Solidarités International, Humanité & Inclusion and Groupe URD) rightly point out, in the last issue of the review “Alternatives Humanitaires”, it is our responsibility to”…respond sustainably to crises, even in emergencies” while placing climate change as one of the determinants of crises whose causes are multiple.
Mali, Afghanistan, climate change, time is running out!