A small charity broke ground this year on a clinic in northern Burkina Faso to care for thousands of women and children who have fled Islamist insurgents wreaking havoc along the fringes of the Sahara, but when Russia invaded Ukraine in February, global supply chains buckled and the cost of building materials, fuel and food spiked in west Africa.
The charity’s founder, Boukary Ouedraogo, was forced to make a tough decision: He halted construction of the clinic with only the foundations laid.
Similar calls are being made across sub-Saharan Africa, where aid projects are threatened by the fallout from the war in Ukraine, potentially putting millions of lives at risk.
Humanitarian agencies already struggling with widespread price increases due to the COVID-19 pandemic say the crisis in Europe has made things worse. Even the cost of life-saving therapeutic foods for malnourished children has spiked.
Compounding the problem, some donors have diverted state aid from Africa’s worst-hit countries to help support more than 6 million refugees who have fled the fighting in Ukraine.
Denmark in March said that it was halving its aid to Burkina Faso this year to accommodate Ukrainian refugees. Its budget for Burkina Faso’s neighbor Mali, also in the grips of an Islamist insurgency, has dropped 40 percent.
Sweden has also said it plans to divert US$1 billion from its aid budget to help cover the cost of hosting Ukrainian refugees.
Ouedraogo’s clinic was desperately needed in Kaya, a town of dirt streets and squat brick buildings surrounded by arid scrubland. Its population has swelled as thousands of people from surrounding villages flee militant attacks, straining the already basic healthcare system.
“What happened in Ukraine happened at the same time as the crisis in this country got worse,” said Ouedraogo, who runs the BO Foundation in Burkina Faso. “We hope all the donors can keep their attention. We felt what we were doing was going to reduce the number of deaths and infant mortality.”
It is a similar story in Sudan. In a southern area faced with conflict and food shortages, a pediatric clinic run by Senegal-based medical charity Alima faces a US$300,000 funding gap due to an increase in costs, including fuel for the clinic’s generator.
At this rate, Alima will have to shut the program down, said Kader Issaley, its director of operations.
Action Against Hunger, a charity with operations across Africa, has seen the cost of foodstuffs such as rice, oil and sugar rise 20 to 30 percent over the past year.
This will reduce its coverage by the same amount, said Mamadou Diop, a representative from its west Africa office.
“We have to totally rethink our approach,” Diop said. “We must decide, do we reduce supply or reduce the number of beneficiaries?”
The problem is not limited to Africa.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) feeds 13 million people a month in Yemen, where the economy has been wrecked by years of war, but it has reduced rations for 8 million of them since January. It might have to make further cuts, after raising only one-quarter of the US$2 billion it needs for Yemen this year from international donors.
“We’re taking food from the poor and feeding the hungry,” WFP representative to Yemen Richard Ragan said. “In June we will have to make some tough decisions about possibly even going down to just feeding 5 million, those who are really most at risk.”
Still, Africa’s problems are unique in scope.
Conflict in Ethiopia, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Sahel region have forced millions to flee their homes. Nearly half a billion people live in extreme poverty, according to the World Bank.
West Africa alone faces an unprecedented food shortage that threatens nearly 40 million people, driven in part by drought, and the impact of the war in Ukraine on food prices and supply.
The impact of higher costs on aid organizations varies, health specialists say.
Smaller non-profits reliant on institutional donors such as governments for annual budgets might struggle more than a larger charity such as Doctors Without Borders, which raises money through public campaigns.
Doctors Without Borders said it did not foresee cutting back its operations due to the war in Ukraine, but few are immune. A drop in funding that preceded the Ukraine war has forced WFP to cut rations in seven countries in west and central Africa.
In Nigeria, the continent’s most populous country, the number of people receiving emergency assistance from WFP has dropped from 1.9 million in September last year to 650,000.
Like Burkina Faso and Mali, northern Nigeria is also wracked by a prolonged Islamist insurgency.
Health specialists and aid workers said it was too early to assess exactly what the impact on communities would be and it could take months to see how much damage the cutbacks cause.
“Further funding shortfalls will contribute to worsening food security and nutrition in locations where food insecurity is already at emergency levels,” WFP spokesman for western Africa Djaounsede Madjiangar said.
In Somalia, one-year-old Hassan howled in a blue plastic bucket suspended from a scale as a medical technician noted his weight — 5.6kg.
It was an improvement. Hassan weighed only 5.2kg when he first began receiving treatment for severe acute malnutrition at a clinic run by aid workers in the south of the country three months ago — about half what a boy his age should weigh.
His partial recovery is thanks to a sweet peanut paste called Plumpy’Nut developed by French scientists in the 1990s that has become a crucial weapon in the fight against child malnutrition.
Three small sachets a day for six weeks can be enough to bring a starving child back to full health, the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) says.
“He used to be much worse,” said the boy’s mother, Hasan Habiba Mohammed Nur, patting his bony legs under an oversized T-shirt. “The Plumpy’Nut has really helped him.”
UNICEF says it spends US$137 million a year on therapeutic food and the overall market is estimated to be worth up to US$400 million, but aid agencies say it is becoming too expensive.
Over the past year, the cost of Plumpy’Nut has risen 23 percent, including a 9 percent increase imposed since the war in Ukraine began, Plumpy’Nut’s main producer Nutriset said.
In a letter to customers in March warning of impending price increases, it said the cost of ingredients such as palm oil, milk powder and whey, and packaging including laminate for the sachets, had risen sharply. Shipping expenses have also rocketed. In all, costs are up 39 percent, Nutriset said.
“The war in Ukraine is indirectly impacting the price of raw materials, and prices will continue to increase even more in the weeks and months to come,” Nutriset said.
The increases worry UNICEF. It predicts that prices of therapeutic foods would rise 16 percent in the next six months because of Ukraine and pandemic disruptions. Without further funding, 600,000 more children might miss out on treatment, it said.
The effects are already being felt, aid workers say.
Alima’s budget to buy and ship a batch of Plumpy’Nut to a project in an impoverished area in the southeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is about 175,000 euros (US$188,000), but with a rise in fuel costs and the price of Plumpy’Nut, the shipment now costs 230,000 euros, said Hassan Bouziane, who runs logistics at Alima.
He now has to go to donors to get more cash, taking up valuable time.
“The impact on the beneficiaries will be huge,” Bouziane said. “The treatment for a child of five years old is six weeks. When you lose two weeks, that is a third of their treatment.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has created a dilemma that could soon cause him to be hoisted with his own petard, bringing his leadership of China to an end. His threatening rhetoric over the unification of Taiwan with China, in which he has said, “we are willing to draw blood if necessary,” has placed Xi in a corner. Xi is portrayed as a strong world leader, yet he has created a scenario for himself that most likely would have an unfavorable outcome. With the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) scheduled to convene this month, Xi cannot
The 77th session of the UN General Assembly opened on Sept. 13. More than 10 overseas Taiwanese organizations had submitted a petition to the UN secretary-general, protesting that 23.5 million Taiwanese are excluded from representation. As president of the Taiwan United Nations Alliance, I also submitted a letter to the UN, saying that Taiwanese should have the right to be represented under the name of Taiwan. The government has been asking its allies to support Taiwan’s entry into the UN, but under its official name, the Republic of China (ROC). Doing so would have involved the right to represent China, with
I was privileged to meet with many of Taiwan’s leaders and leading thinkers during a study tour visit in August. One theme I heard several times during that trip was that bad relations between the United States and China benefit Taiwan. At first thought, I empathize with the argument. After all, there is a troubling record of America’s leaders negotiating with Beijing over the heads of Taiwan’s leaders. For example, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt returned Taiwan to China after World War II. President Richard Nixon surprised Taiwan leaders with his 1972 trip to China. President Jimmy Carter unilaterally chose to normalize
Washington’s “one China” policy has not changed and the US does not take a position on Taiwan’s sovereignty issue, a US Department of State spokesperson has said. He said that this has been the principle of US policy toward Taiwan since 1979, and the policy has remained in effect. He also said that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has privately made this clear to Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅). The US’ “one China” policy and China’s “one China” principle recognize China as the “representative of China.” The two diverge on the issue of Taiwan: Beijing asserts sovereignty