Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) - The African Union (AU) is due to host a meeting of experts from the Sahel region at its headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, this week to intensify efforts to address the worsening humanitarian situation in the Sahel region, the AU Commission said in a statement obtained by PANA here Monday.
It said the experts meeting is expected to come up with decisions to be adopted by ministerial meeting of the Peace and Security Council in Bamako, Mali, later this month.
For the second time in a week, the AU has expressed ''deep concern'' over the deteriorating humanitarian situation unfolding in the Sahel region of Africa, particularly in Northern Mali which is also experiencing an armed rebellion.
The Sahel region is undergoing serious humanitarian crisis driven by adverse climate and rain failure that have caused poor harvest and resulted in chronic food insecurity.
The statement quoted AU Commission Chairperson Jean Ping as saying nothing can justify the recourse to armed rebellion in Mali, ''a country whose democratic institutions provide an appropriate framework of expression of views, making it possible to find, through dialogue, solutions to all legitimate demands.”
He said the attacks in the north of Mali were taking place in an already difficult humanitarian context, due particularly to the consequences of the drought which affects the entire Sahel area.
On Friday, the AU said the situation - characterized by the drought, insecurity, high food prices, erosion of the resilience of the affected communities and displacement of persons, which has left over 10 million people in need of humanitarian assistance - risks widespread malnutrition, especially among children across the region.
While about US$686 million is required to respond to the crisis, current funding stands at only around US$180 million, according to the AU.
“It leaves a resource shortfall of about US$512 million or 80% short and it is noted that the gap keeps increasing. There is therefore a need for enhanced support to bridge the deficit and the ever mounting requirements,” the AU said.
The 54-member bloc has therefore announced an initial donation of US$500,000 from its coffers.
It also said a humanitarian assessment mission would be deployed to the region and called on the entire continent, including traditional donors, other states and entities outside of Africa, to join in the fraternal expression of solidarity with the affected persons.
“The Commission further commends the efforts of the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) for the emergency response provided. It is appealing to other Regional Economic Communities (REC’s), Member States, Organized Private Sector, Civil Society and the entire African citizenry to redouble their efforts to reduce this shortfall,” it said.
The AU has also urged governments of the region, partners, and sub-regional organizations to integrate emergency relief efforts into medium and longer term solutions that builds resilience among communities in drought-prone areas by expanding the scope for recovery and rehabilitation.
“A development approach which seeks to address root causes, including by developing regional resilience strategy, is encouraged in this regard,” it added.
-0- PANA OR/SEG 12Mar2012