Over $2 billion pledged to drought-stricken Lake Chad region

BERLIN (Reuters) - Donor countries pledged $2.17 billion to the drought-stricken area around Lake Chad on Monday, after a United Nations official warned that many millions in the African region still urgently needed help.

Mark Lowcock, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, attends the High Conference on the Lake Chad Region in Berlin, Germany, September 3, 2018. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

At a conference in Berlin attended by more than 70 states, international organizations and non-governmental organizations, donors pledged this sum would be made available “over coming years”, according to a German foreign ministry statement.

It would be supplemented by $467 million in cheap credits from development banks, the ministry added.

A famine was averted in the region last year largely thanks to international aid, but millions of people in Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon were still in dire need of help, U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told reporters.

“The crisis is not over. There are still 10 million people who need lifesaving assistance,” he said. “A quarter of the people we are trying to reach are displaced from their homes and the only means of staying alive they have is what is provided by humanitarian organizations.”

Germany, a leading destination for migrants including from Africa, pledged an extra 100 million euros ($116 million) for humanitarian aid in the region up to 2020. This was on top of 40 million euros in funding for stabilization and conflict prevention efforts, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.

His government has promised to help African nations improve conditions to keep people from embarking on dangerous journeys in the hope of reaching Europe.

Development Minister Gerd Mueller, just back from a visit to Chad, said 2.4 million people have already fled the region due to climate change and violence blamed on the Boko Haram insurgent movement and Islamic State.

“We need a joint European solution. And the international community must get far more engaged for the overall region to give these people a chance for survival and undercut a breeding ground for terrorism,” Mueller said in a statement.

Achim Steiner, head of the U.N. Development Programme, warned that more people could flee the region unless the international community took action to help them for the long-term.

Reporting by Sabine Siebold and Andrea Shalal, Editing by William Maclean and David Stamp