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European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations
© European Union, 2019 (photographer: Xaume OLLEROS)


The Sahel is one of the most conflict-ridden regions in the world. Deteriorating security is exacerbated by increasingly extreme weather, deep poverty, and unprecedented food insecurity and malnutrition. 

Close to 1/4 of the Sahel’s population of 94 million needs humanitarian assistance and protection, an increase of 10 million since 2020. Out of the 24.7 million people in need, the majority are women and children. 

In a context of increasing needs but reduced access, the EU maintains its steadfast support to humanitarian partners on the ground.

What are the needs?

Violence and conflict are the main drivers of humanitarian needs in the Sahel. Between instability from military coups and conflict instigated by non-state armed groups, its population is facing formidable challenges. 

An unprecedented number of people in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger need protection and humanitarian assistance. 4.9 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes while 1.2 million have returned to their places of origin but often lack security, services, and work opportunities. 

Food insecurity remains at an all-time high with over 11.9 million people who are projected to require emergency food assistance during the lean season between June and August 2024. The situation is particularly worrisome on certain countries seeing an extreme increase in acute food insecurity caseload compared to the 2018-2023 average during the same season, notably Chad (+170%) and Niger (+41%). 

Basic services are disrupted by violence and host communities are overwhelmed by the influx of uprooted people, fuelling inter-communal tensions. 

More than 8,000 schools remain closed, with millions of children at risk of exploitation and abuse. Child protection and gender-based violence are major concerns. 

Healthcare is also affected, with hundreds of health facilities not functioning.

Despite skyrocketing needs, insecurity is hampering humanitarian workers’ access to people in need. 

Conflict is now spilling over into neighbouring countries which are witnessing more violent incidents. 

How are we helping?

The EU is one of the largest donors of humanitarian aid to the Sahel. In 2024, the EU humanitarian assistance to the Sahel region stands at €144 million.

The EU provides aid to both displaced people and host communities and supports people affected by conflict and insecurity. 

Besides enabling a rapid response to sudden emergencies and population displacements, we help provide (i) shelter and clean water, (ii) emergency food assistance, (iii) treatment for malnourished children, (iv) access to health care, , and (v) protection for those most in need. In addition, our funding ensures safe access to education for children affected by armed conflict. 

EU-funded mobile teams are equipped to respond to the protection needs of newly displaced populations. They provide psychological first aid and identify particularly vulnerable people requiring assistance.

During the lean season when food stocks run low, the EU prioritises food assistance to displaced populations, to areas with crisis levels of food insecurity and to hard-to-reach areas.

16.5 million children under-5 are set to suffer from acute malnutrition in 2023, including nearly 5 million at risk of severe malnutrition which is deadly and debilitating. After years of funding better integrated nutrition care, we continue to support the early detection and treatment of severe acute undernutrition in children under 5. 

Despite recent gains to reduce child deaths, the region has seen an 8.9% rise in global acute malnutrition compared to 2023, mostly because of instability and violence.

The Sahel continues to be an epidemics hot spot which is why the EU funds outbreak control and prevention, and also helps fund vaccination efforts. More generally, the EU supports the continuity of primary health care for affected populations.

In addition, to help countries better prepare for and reduce the impact of natural hazards and their effects on food availability in the region, EU humanitarian funding covers disaster risk reduction initiatives. 

Last updated: 28/05/2024

Facts & figures

EU provides humanitarian support in the following Sahel countries: Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger.

4.9 million forcibly displaced people: 

  • 1.9 million refugees 
  • 3 million internally displaced 

1.2 million returnees 

24.7 million people need humanitarian assistance 

EU humanitarian funding:
€144 million in 2024