Caritas Internationalis Officials Highlight Five Lines of Action to Address Sahel Crisis

Map of the Sahel Region, cropped from original. Credit: The Conversation/Zenobia Ahmed, CC BY-SA.

The leadership of the global confederation of Catholic relief agencies, Caritas Internationalis (CI), has outlined five lines of action that could help address the crisis in the Central Sahel region, which comprises the West African nations of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. 

The proposed lines of action are part of CI’s  Tuesday, November 3 report following the October 20 high-level ministerial round table virtual session, which  Denmark, Germany, the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU) jointly hosted.

CI officials propose addressing the root causes of the crisis and the promotion of the role of civil society organizations as well as community-based approaches in peace building initiatives. Coordinated efforts among peace workers carrying out humanitarian development and efforts toward protecting displaced persons are also proposed.

As a fifth line of action, CI leadership advocates for a people-centered approach to peace and sustainable development in the three West African nations.

CI’s leadership proposes the promotion of “multi-dimensional and longer-term approaches to development, humanitarian and peace efforts to address the root causes of the crisis in the Central Sahel region.”


In the November 3 report, one CI official is quoted as saying that “it is not enough to treat the symptoms of the crisis.”

“The crisis in Central Sahel is rooted in issues of governance, the unequal distribution of wealth, lack of equitable access to resources, education and life opportunities by the poor, which in turn pushes many young people to join armed groups to escape poverty and injustice,” the CI officials explained during the October 20 round table virtual session.

Another line of action proposed for the Central Sahel region is the promotion of the “role of national and local civil society organizations, and community-based approaches, to addressing protection, social cohesion, conflict prevention and peacebuilding.”

The leadership of CI sees local leaders, including the religious, women, and youth as key in finding solutions to the Central Sahel crisis, contributing to the prevention of violence and the building of more cohesive communities.

Officials of the 162-member confederation encourage a greater focus on enabling local communities to find their own solutions. They suggest that donors “invest in interreligious programs between Christians and Muslims and others to help promote unity in local communities.”

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In the November 3 report obtained by ACI Africa, CI leadership further suggests that particular attention is paid to vulnerable refugees, internally displaced persons and the support toward asylum seekers within the Central Sahel region.

“This means strengthening protection against human trafficking, maintaining family unity during displacement and supporting family reunification, registering stateless people and promoting the integration of IDPs in host communities, as well as training refugees as community leaders,” officials of the Italy-based agency explain.

Further, CI officials call for coordination between humanitarian development and peace actors, as well as between national and local Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in the Central Sahel region. 

“Local civil society and faith-based organizations, that should be involved in contributing to early warning systems, need assessments and the monitoring and evaluation of emergency, peacebuilding and development programs,” they say. 

As a final line of action, CI leadership suggests that policymakers “strengthen inter-regional cooperation, which promotes a people-centered approach to peace and sustainable development, human security and the eradication of extreme poverty in line with Agenda 2063 proposed by the African Union.”


The Central Sahel region is facing one of the “world’s fastest-growing humanitarian crises” caused by inter and intra-community violence as well as human rights violations perpetrated by various actors against civilians, CI officials have reported.

They add that the Central Sahel crisis has led to forced displacements with more than 13 million people requiring urgent humanitarian assistance in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger – 5 million more at the beginning of 2020.

Following the October 20 high-level ministerial virtual round table discussion, donor nations announced more than US$1.7 billion to scale up essential lifesaving humanitarian assistance and avoid a further exacerbation of the humanitarian crises in the three West African countries, CI officials say in the November 3 report.

“Intensifying aid is crucial, but without seriously addressing those root causes, humanitarian needs will increase and people in the Central Sahel will continue to pay the highest price of the crisis,” Caritas Africa’s Regional Coordinator, Albert Mashika was quoted as saying during the October 20 round table discussion.

Founded on November 9, 1897 by German Fr. Lorenz Werthmann, Caritas Internationalis shares the mission of the Catholic Church to serve the poor and to promote charity and justice throughout the world.

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Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.