“There is a form of Eurocentrism, even racism, in the distribution of international aid”

“There is a form of Eurocentrism, even racism, in the distribution of international aid”

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In a camp for displaced people in Kaya, Burkina Faso, in November 2020.

Far from Europe, far from Ukraine, war continues to kill every day in Africa. For the first time, the annual ranking of the “ten most neglected crises”, published on Wednesday 1er June by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), is made up entirely of countries on the continent.

In the lead, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burkina Faso and Cameroon. In addition to conflicts, “crises” are also food-related, as in the Sahel and West Africa, where 27 million people suffer from hunger. A situation of unprecedented severity for ten years, aggravated by the cumulative effects of the war in Ukraine, climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Tom Peyre-Costa, spokesperson for the NGO in West and Central Africa, regrets “a form of Eurocentrism, even racism, in the distribution of international aid”. He pleads for the speed of the international community’s response to the war in Ukraine to be duplicated elsewhere.

Why are the ten “most neglected” crises in the world, according to your criteria, all in Africa?

Tom Peyre Costa We made this ranking based on three factors: lack of funding, political involvement and media attention. First of all, there is the “dead-mile” law. The further these crises are from the West, the less they arouse interest and empathy there. We can therefore regret a form of Eurocentrism, even racism, in the distribution of international aid.

The war in Syria made headlines when Syrian refugees started arriving in Europe. Crises in Latin America command attention as migrants attempt to cross the US border. But most of the displaced people affected by the conflicts on the African continent do not show up at “our” doors and have no choice but to flee to their own country or to a neighboring country.

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Added to this is the fatigue of donors and the media for these crises which have sometimes lasted for more than a decade, as in the DRC, where armed groups relentlessly attack civilians, often inside the camps themselves. displaced persons, which are nevertheless supposed to be spaces protected by international humanitarian law. It takes a monster to kill innocent women and children; but watching monsters kill them again and again, doing nothing, is also inhuman.

Has the war in Ukraine contributed to eclipsing these crises?

This conflict has in any case demonstrated the immense gap between what is possible when the international community mobilizes and the daily reality of millions of Africans who suffer in the shadows.

By way of comparison, the humanitarian appeal for Ukraine was 100% funded the same day, more than 6 billion euros raised [lors d’une conférence internationale des donateurs à Varsovie, le 5 mai]while in the DRC, where almost a third of the population suffers from hunger, more than half of the funds for the humanitarian emergency plan were missing in 2021: 876 million dollars [environ 816 millions d’euros] have been paid out of $1.98 billion requested.

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Regarding media coverage, there are on average three times more articles published each day during the first months of the war in Ukraine than for all of 2021 on the crisis in Burkina Faso, which nevertheless experienced a peak in displacement that year. . Yet it is the same terrified looks that we see fleeing in Boutcha, Mariupol and the Sahel.

What are the consequences of the conflict in Ukraine in these countries?

Soaring food and fuel prices are affecting vulnerable populations who are becoming even more vulnerable. In the DRC, the price of sugar and cooking oil doubled, while bread increased by 20%. Imagine the impact of these increases in a country where 27 million people are already suffering from hunger. Humanitarian operations are also more expensive, while several donor countries have announced a reduction in their aid to Africa to redirect funds to Ukraine. Like in Mali, where Denmark has decided to cut its funding by 40%.

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The situation was already alarming, but we are increasingly worried. Hunger figures are breaking records. If we add those for West Africa, the DRC and the Central African Republic, this gives 65 million people who are now in a situation of food insecurity, ie the size of the French population.

How does the reduction in international aid affect your activities on the ground?

We are forced to make impossible choices, between those we can help and those who cannot. In the DRC, it is very complicated. Barely 10% of the 2022 response plan has been funded to date. Last year, the assistance provided amounted to less than a dollar per week per person in need.

This international neglect has an enormous cost. Lives that could have been saved are lost. Conflicts are allowed to turn into protracted crises and dash the hopes of entire generations in search of a better future. It’s a vicious circle. Because it is also hunger that drives people to take up arms. Without food there is no peace; without peace, no food.

When you see the speed with which policymakers and the media acted in response to the war in Ukraine, you wish it would inspire the same urgency in the face of the most neglected crises of our time. We need to overcome donor fatigue, find lasting political solutions and ensure that humanitarian aid is delivered based on need, not media coverage or geopolitical interests.

The DRC, Burkina and Cameroon at the top of the “most neglected crises”

The ten most neglected crises in the world are all in Africa, according to the ranking of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

In the lead, as last year, is the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): faced with the intensification of armed conflicts and inter-community tensions, 5.5 million Congolese are displaced in the country and 1 million have preferred to flee to the stranger. The NGO regrets the lack of media attention for this country at war for more than twenty years and “the absence of strong diplomatic engagement”.

In second place, Burkina Faso is registering one of the fastest displacement crises in the world, with nearly one in ten inhabitants forced to leave their homes because of attacks by jihadist groups since 2015 in the north and east. from the country. As the lean season approaches, from June to August, humanitarian actors are worried about a risk of famine in certain areas landlocked by violence, while 3 million Burkinabés are expected to suffer from hunger.

Insecurity, the effects of climate change and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic have also aggravated the humanitarian crisis in Cameroon, ranked third, where restrictions on access to information and arrests complicate the work of journalists. .

South Sudan, which experienced major floods in 2021 and where more than 60% of the population is expected to suffer from hunger during the next lean season, and Chad, where the rate of severe malnutrition in several regions exceeds the threshold emergency rate of 2% set by the World Health Organization (WHO), are entering the rankings. This also includes Mali, Sudan, Nigeria, Burundi and Ethiopia.