This year in West Africa natural and man-made disasters - from floods to fighting - brought anguish and emergency assistance, and left communities, aid workers and analysts mulling the long-term causes.
The always harsh lean season brought a nutrition crisis in Niger, Chad and other parts of the Sahel; a massive aid operation saved many lives, experts say, but the very fact that under-nutrition regularly kills children in the region means prevention measures need just as much attention.
Parched earth soon turned into waterways in much of the region, including in Benin where agriculture experts said farming families will feel the impact of this year’s floods well into 2011.
In a region where emergency humanitarian needs often stem from long-term structural problems, aid groups grapple with how to work sustainability into short-term life-saving operations. Researchers are examining whether donor aid to the public health sector lets governments off too lightly.
Governments and governance continue to be put to the test in West Africa - with mixed results. The world watched nervously as Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea held overdue, high-stakes presidential elections. By the end of 2010 Côte d’Ivoire - with two governments and severe unrest - was shoved out of the African Union, and Guinea - with its first-ever elected civilian leader - welcomed back in.
In another state with a turbulent political history, analysts wondered whether a coup in Niger, where then President Mamadou Tandja was working to prolong his stay in power, was not a turn for the better. The country is scheduled to start the new year with presidential elections.
Elections are also set for early 2011 in Nigeria, where government and civil society continue to battle chronic unrest in the Niger Delta and communal violence in the centre and north.
Some looming security threats are regional, such as organized crime or the presence of organizations like al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb; analysts say more coordination is needed.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions