Feature story

UNAIDS joins with Luxembourg to respond to the humanitarian crisis in the Sahel

19 September 2012

L to R : Mrs Fatoumata Daou, Collectif des Femmes pour l’éducation, la santé familiale et l’assainissement Yiriwaton, Minister of Cooperation and Humanitarian action Marie-Josée Jacobs and UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé.
Credit: Ministère des Affaires étrangères du Luxembourg

The humanitarian crisis in the Sahel is affecting the lives of millions of people across the region. In eight countries stretching from Chad in the East to Senegal in the West, countries, communities and families are faced with a combination of political instability, drought, poverty, high grain prices, environmental degradation and chronic underdevelopment which has resulted in high levels of malnutrition and insecurity.

“The crisis is devastating the region I grew up in,” said the Executive Director of UNAIDS Michel Sidibé, originally from Mali. “Across the Sahel, I have family and friends whose lives, and communities and countries are directly affected. I will do everything I can to bring attention and resources to help end the crisis.”

There are many complex issues surrounding the crisis and similarities can be drawn with that of the impact and spread of HIV. Like AIDS, it is a humanitarian crisis with political and social origins, and people living with HIV and in need of treatment are particularly vulnerable.

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is one of the many countries working hard to further its relief efforts in the region. As part of its annual ‘Assises’, it held a special session on food insecurity in the Sahel. The Assises is a two day session held once a year which brings together politicians, members of the Commission of Foreign affairs, leaders from the departments of Development and Cooperation, representatives from partner countries and around 90 non-governmental organisations in Luxembourg to discuss current pressing issues in the humanitarian agenda.

I will do everything I can to bring attention and resources to help end the crisis

UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibé

This year’s discussions focused on three main topics; food insecurity in the Sahel; physical and political insecurity and judicial insecurity. The Executive Director of UNAIDS Michel Sidibé was invited to open the session on food insecurity.

“I am here to support Luxembourg’s efforts to give attention and support to the crisis in the Sahel. Luxembourg is a strong supporter of UNAIDS, but I am even bigger supporter of Luxembourg’s leadership on this particular issue,” said Mr Sidibé.

The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has called for all United Nations Agencies to coordinate, advocate and advance the UN’s response to the crisis. The Secretary-General has called for a special meeting during the United Nations General Assembly to further advance the UN’s work in alleviating the human suffering caused by the disaster.

During his visit to Luxembourg Mr Sidibé had a chance to discuss both developments in the response to HIV and the issues surrounding the Sahel crisis with the Minister of health, Mars Di Bartolomeo and the Minister of Cooperation and Humanitarian action Marie-Josée Jacobs who officially opened the Assises.

For a number of years Luxembourg has been one of UNAIDS’ most important donors––providing funding for activities essential to an effective response to HIV. Earlier this year UNAIDS signed a memorandum of understanding with Luxembourg to further consolidate the partnership and strengthen efforts to end the disease.