ANKARA/TUNIS, Tunisia (AA) - Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region, armed groups in northern Mali, Ugandan rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, political and security crises in Burundi, Ebola, malaria and other pandemics ... so many ills plaguing Africa.
African countries, present at this week’s first World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, want the world to take rapid, concrete international action to help the continent as it stares into the abyss of humanitarian crises.
"We hope that this summit is an opportunity to make concrete commitments to people who really need humanitarian actions,” Moussa Tchangari, secretary-general of Niger’s Alternative Citizen Space NGO, told Anadolu Agency.
The association helps in the fight against Boko Haram since the militant group’s first attack in the region in February 2015.
According to the UN, Boko Haram has killed hundreds of people and displaced more than 124,000 others in Southeastern Niger.
Tchangari stressed that leaders must “rethink humanitarian action during the summit in order to be more sustainable, efficient, and meet the expectations of each country.”
Present at the opening ceremony of the summit in Istanbul, Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said, “The humanitarian situation in the Sahel region [between the Sahara Desert and the south] and Mali is very alarming according to various reports of the secretary-general of the United Nations. Therefore, I would make an urgent appeal to the international community to reverse the trend in the implementation of future humanitarian programs."
"We must implement measures that would allow us to avoid the vicious circle of poverty and misery, which are often the reasons that make young people join armed groups or terrorists and criminal networks," he added.
This is an opinion shared by many African countries where the humanitarian situation has deteriorated. “It is in Africa that the biggest humanitarian crises occur,” said Liberian Vice President Joseph Boakai at the summit.
Boakai also raised the problem of poverty. "To prevent conflict, we must first eliminate poverty and create opportunities for people to succeed. We must learn to coexist in peace and diversity," he said.
The governor of the Nigerian state of Borno, the heartland of terrorist group Boko Haram, said he is attending the summit to seek aid for the resettlement of 2 million people ravaged by the seven-year insurgency and for rebuilding nearly 100 communities destroyed by the crisis.
"I am in Istanbul to talk about the humanitarian challenges of our people. I will be addressing the summit on assistance toward rebuilding our communities worth about $6 billion," said Governor Kashim Shettima, who has been managing the crisis for nearly seven years.
A recent report by UNICEF put the number of schoolchildren forced out of school by Boko Haram at 70,000.
During a visit to the affected community in Borno last week, Stephen O’Brien, the United Nations under-secretary general in charge of humanitarian affairs, described the humanitarian challenges in the area as “huge”, calling on donor agencies and humanitarian organizations to "show concern before it degenerates into further problems".
Burundi, which has seen a political and security crisis for over a year, has strongly appealed to the international community to take up the issue of refugees.
"The summit must mark a major shift in humanitarian action. We especially call on the participants to devote a moment to the situation in Burundi, which has already caused an unprecedented humanitarian crisis with over 300,000 refugees. We'd like an international mobilization for these Burundian refugees," Jeremie Minani, the spokesman of CNARED, an opposition platform, told Anadolu Agency.
Also, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has faced deep humanitarian crises and political instability for over two decades due to repeated rebel attacks from Uganda and Rwanda.
According to the UN, the country has more than 1.8 million displaced persons living in extreme conditions. More than 4 million children are directly affected by the conflict in the country, UNICEF said Monday.
The UN agency lamented a low rate of investment allocated for emergency education in the DRC. It said children’s right to education should be taken into consideration during talks at the Istanbul summit.
Conscious of the need to act quickly, international institutions have already launched initial actions.
In order not to repeat the same errors, such as the slow response to the Ebola epidemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank launched an emergency fund last Saturday in Japan.
This emergency financing mechanism aims to protect the poorest countries against pandemics. Japan has already announced that it would donate $50 million to the emergency fund.
More than 11,300 people died from the Ebola epidemic that swept West Africa in 2014 during the worst-ever outbreak of the disease, according to the World Health Organization.
On Monday Canada announced during the summit that it will donate $274 million to UN agencies working in development and humanitarian emergency assistance.
Marie-Claude Bibeau, Canada’s minister of international development, urged leaders to act now because "the number of people in urgent need of assistance has never been higher".
Bibeau added, "Canada will continue to lead by developing and supporting innovative humanitarian programs."
This Canadian aid will be used in particular to combat famine in Ethiopia, or help about 8 million people threatened by drought. Part of the money will also be used to defend the rights of children, especially girls, in areas ravaged by conflict, according to the minister.
Speaking at the summit in Istanbul on Monday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: "We need to provide more direct funding to local people and communities and fix the persistent humanitarian funding gap and invest in building stable and inclusive societies."