The Sahel (pronounced SUH-HEL) region is an imaginary belt wrapping across the continent of Africa. It forms a horizontal line, separating the arid Sahara Desert from the continent’s humid tropical savannas. The region spans 10 African countries. Sadly, a convergence of humanitarian needs in three of those 10 is reaching crisis level.
The people of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger are hurting. Lives are at risk. The communities there are desperate for basic survival needs to be met. “The central Sahel region is at a breaking point,” says United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. But help is on the way. More than 20 international donors pledged over $1 billion in aid for the broken central Sahel region.
United Nations humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock says that “nowhere in the world worries me as much as the Sahel in the medium term.” He is fearful that the region “is very close to a tipping point, with ripple effects that could reach neighboring countries and further afield.”
What went so terribly wrong in the Sahel? The population grew too quickly. Over half the people living in these countries are under 25 years old. The countries weren’t ready to handle the rapid increase.
Drought and rain are extremely harsh in this dry and barren African region. Too little rain wipes out crops. So does too much. Seasonal rains bring substantial flooding to these vulnerable countries.
Violence also floods the Sahel. Arabic, Islamic, and nomadic cultures are concentrated north of the belt. Below are native cultures. The people living in the Sahel region endure conflicts between these starkly different groups, which often turn bloody.
According to Mr. Lowcock, the troubling situation in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger is a symptom of failure to deal with a broad range of challenges. The multifaceted situation involves the climate, politics, health, hygiene, resources, religions, economics—just to name the big topics.
The Sahel needs mercy. Revelation 21:4 is a beautiful promise that gives hope that suffering will stop one day: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” God will bring healing. He promises to one day fix all the broken and sad things.