ECOWAS Calls For Improved Collaboration to Curb Worsening Humanitarian Crisis In West Africa

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has called for improved collaboration among member states to help ease the suffering of persons displaced by worsening humanitarian crisis in West Africa.

The Commissioner, Human Development and Social Affairs, ECOWAS, Prof. Fatou Sarr made the call  on Tuesday while addressing representatives of  member states at the opening of a  three day workshop on ECOWAS Response to Persons of Concern (PoCs-IDPs, Refugees, Returnees, Stateless People, Asylum Seekers and their Host Communities holding in Abuja 

Sarr who was represented by the Director Humanitarian and Social Affairs, Dr. Sintiki  Ugbe said: “In 2024, the data and information collated from the region, have shown that population displacement resulting from varied humanitarian events, especially conflicts, have contributed enormously to the worsening of the humanitarian situation. 

She noted that: “Key figures shared by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on displacement as of December 2023 show that 6,919,306 are forcibly displaced of which 6,284,384 are IDPs, 634,922 are Refugees & Asylums seekers. UNHCR 2024 report, has put the figures of stateless population in the region at over 931,000."

On tackling the worsening situation, she said: “In response to the increasing humanitarian events in the region, the ECOWAS Commission has constantly developed and reviewed its strategies in collaboration with member states and relevant partners in line with its principal mandate of assisting member states to reduce the suffering of populations affected by humanitarian emergencies and affected communities.

"In this regard, the Humanitarian and Social Affairs Directorate has developed an inclusive strategy where member states and relevant partners determine the humanitarian needs of our populations as well as the affected communities.

"This gives ownership to the member states and affords ECOWAS the opportunity to coordinate and monitor the implementation of the assistance to the utmost benefit of the affected communities and populations.”

She also noted that, "the workshop will focus majorly on addressing the impact of displacement and related humanitarian events on refugees, IDPs, migrants, asylum seekers and stateless persons as well as host communities in 2024.

"Other factors such as food and nutrition crisis and the prospects in the coming months and expected mortality rate, etc. have also formed the core reasons for ECOWAS' decision to respond to these segments of the population in need."

According to her, other aims of the workshop are; "The overall objective of this workshop is to come up with appropriate data and information on the needs of populations affected by the identified challenges to further close the response gaps and reduce humanitarian sufferings which if sustained will ultimately close the gap in Humanitarian Development Peace nexus."

She urged the participants to commit to the nine humanitarian standards as they deliberate on how best to solve humanitarian crisis in the West African subregion; "Can exercise their rights and participate in actions and decisions that affect them., Access timely and effective support in accordance with their specific needs and priorities. Are better prepared and more resilient to potential crises., Access support that does not cause harm to people or the environment."

“And, can safely report concerns and complaints and get them addressed., Access coordinated and complementary support.

Others are: Access support that is continually adapted and improved based on feedback and learning., Interact with staff and volunteers that are respectful, competent and well-managed., And Can expect that resources are managed ethically and responsibly."

She explained that the workshop is aimed at adopting the humanitarian needs assessment for the assistance of PoCs, IDPs, Refugees, Returnees, Stateless People, Asylum Seekers, and their Host Communities in Member States.

The Permanent Secretary Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Abel Enitan, in his welcome address stated that, "In 2023, the challenges facing West Africa led to an estimated 64.5 million individuals requiring assistance and protection in the region.

Enitan, who was represented by the Director Humanitarian Affairs in the Ministry,  Mr. Valentine Ezulu, said: "Today, we continue to witness severe humanitarian crises exacerbated by conflicts, lack of basic services, and the escalating impacts of climate change.

 “As we gather here, it is crucial to recognise the pressing need to address the unprecedented levels of food insecurity, displacement and the urgent response required from each member state." 

He applauded the ECOWAS initiative for supporting member states disaster management agencies, noting that the Commission's initiative to support national responses underscores the importance of validating baseline data on the humanitarian needs of IDPs, refugees, returnees, stateless persons, asylum seekers, and their host communities. This workshop aims to provide a platform for collaborative efforts in mitigating the immediate and medium-term effects on displaced populations across our region.

He also stated that, "in light of the prevailing challenges, characterised by violence, insecurity, armed conflicts, natural disasters and governance issues, it is evident that our region is facing deepening humanitarian crises."

He said: "As we proceed with the needs analysis, we must prioritise humanitarian access as a critical lifeline for those ensnared in conflict zones, and emphasise the necessity of protection and assistance for all affected individuals. Our actions must be informed by accurate data and a commitment to inclusivity, while acknowledging the persistent gaps despite ongoing efforts by Member States and partners. The urgency of our collective response is paramount to offer comprehensive support to all persons of concern and their host communities, leaving no one behind." 

"The Federal Government of Nigeria underscores this commitment through its ratification of the Kampala Convention and the launch of the National Policy on Internally Displaced Persons in 2022. This policy provides a robust framework for addressing all facets of internal displacement and emphasizes government's duty to protect and promote the rights of IDPs, returnees, and host communities." He added 

He said “As a nation, Nigeria continues to open its heart and borders, offering international protection to those in need, in line with the ethos of the 1951 Convention and Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees. Most importantly, we are committed towards the implementation of all the pledges made towards the implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR) at the last Global Refugees Forum. However, the journey is far from complete. The lingering gaps in our relief efforts, especially in combating hunger, malnutrition, Parig the shortage of essential non-food items, highlight the ongoing struggle of those affected by displacement.”

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