ECOWAS To Their Rescue

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Konate, Minister of Labour, Social & Humanitarian Affairs, Mali

Economic Community of West African States Commission extends humanitarian assistance to victims of security and political crises in Mali

By Maureen Chigbo  |  Dec. 2, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

REFUGEES and other internally displaced people, victims of the crises that engulfed Mali last year, now have cause to smile. The Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, is extending its humanitarian gesture to more than 169,000 refugees, 311,000 internally-displaced persons, and to some 1.3 million people needing immediate food assistance in the north of the country. Also out of an estimated 800,000 school age children in the country of some 16.5 million people, only 500,000 have been provided for in the 2013/14 academic year. The ECOWAS Commission will give Mali about half a million dollars in food aid within the next few weeks to support populations adversely affected by that country’s political and security crises.

Toure, Special Representative of the President of ECOWAS Commission, speaking
Toure, Special Representative of the President of ECOWAS Commission, speaking

Adrienne Diop, ECOWAS commissioner for Human Development and Gender, said in Bamako, Monday, November 18, that the food items, which include rice, were being procured with the help of the World Food Programme, WFP.  She stated this in an address at a ceremony for the official deployment of 20 members of the ECOWAS Emergency Response Team, EERT, in the country.

In an address, on the occasion, Ambassador Tcheaka Toure, special representative of the ECOWAS commission president in Mali, recalled that apart from mobilising international, political and diplomatic efforts to resolve the Malian crises, the regional organisation has also rallied international financial support for post-conflict reconstruction of the country. Accordimg to him, in April 2012, ECOWAS donated $3 million dollars to Mali and another $1.5 million to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger to support Malian populations displaced by the conflict.

Tsekouras, Head of OCHA, Mali, giving speech at the event
Tsekouras, Head of OCHA, Mali, giving speech at the event

Diop thanked UN organisations including UNHCR, the refugee agency, the WFP, International Organisation for Migration and other partners for their various contributions to the commission and ECOWAS member states. She also commended EERT contributing countries and urged the team members to respect ECOWAS core values, international humanitarian principles as well as Malian cultural values and people in their areas of deployment. “You are ECOWAS ambassadors and must conduct yourselves with dignity to protect the image of our common organization, ECOWAS,” the commissioner added.

Malanda making presentation on ECOWAS during EERT Deployment Training
Malanda making presentation on ECOWAS during EERT Deployment Training

Mali’s minister of Labour, Social and Humanitarian Affairs, Hamadou Konate, who presided at the ceremony, expressed the gratitude of the Malian government and people to ECOWAS and its member states for coming to the aid of the country during its time of need. He explained that the conflict which broke in Mali last year had unleashed an unprecedented burden of refugees, internally displaced persons and other socio-economic and humanitarian adverse effects on the country. The minister expressed the hope that the ECOWAS deployment would help strengthen the capacity of the country in addressing the humanitarian challenges and thereby facilitate its post-conflict reconstruction and recovery.

Noel Tsekouras, acting Head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UNOCHA, in Mali, commended ECOWAS for its laudable humanitarian initiatives and pledged his organisation’s willingness to partner with the regional economic bloc to deliver on the objectives of the humanitarian support.

Toure (r) shake hands with Konate, Min. of Labor, Social & Humanitarian Affairs
Toure (r) shake hands with Konate, Min. of Labor, Social & Humanitarian Affairs

Earlier, at the beginning of a four-day pre-deployment training for the 20 EERT members, the UNOCHA official called for more international support for post-conflict recovery of Mali, noting that only 38 percent of the $477 million appeal fund for the country had been received.

As part of the training on Monday, the EERT members being deployed for three months received briefings from UN Development Programme officials on the general situation in Mali, as well as on the security situation by Soulemane Thioune, the Joint Operations Centre, JOC, chief of MINUSMA, the UN mission in Mali.

Participants during presentation on ECOWAS at EERT Deployment Training session, Bamako
Participants during presentation on ECOWAS at EERT Deployment Training session, Bamako

In his welcoming remarks, Daniel Eklu, the ECOWAS director of Humanitarian and Social Affairs, . enjoined the humanitarian support team to be mindful of the importance of their responsibility, while an ECOWAS consultant on humanitarian affairs, Alphonse Malanda, a former UNHCR Representative in Nigeria with accreditation to ECOWAS, outlined the team’s functions as well as the do’s and don’ts of the mission.

Group photo of the Minister, Head of OCHA, Mali, ECOWAS Director of Humanitarian Affairs, EERT Experts and Participants
Group photo of the Minister, Head of OCHA, Mali, ECOWAS Director of Humanitarian Affairs, EERT Experts and Participants

The deployment by ECOWAS, with UNOCHA support, is within the framework of a regional Humanitarian Assistance. Four of the team members would be seconded to the UNHRC to support its voluntary repatriation and reintegration programme in Mali.

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