While the rules of international humanitarian law (IHL) on humanitarian access are clear, implementing them at the national level can become challenging. To ensure full respect for those rules, States must strike a balance between preserving the security of the civilian population and humanitarian organizations and ensuring that people have access to goods and services that enable the full enjoyment of their rights. This article seeks to show how the IHL rules governing humanitarian access apply in the context of the Sahel region of Africa. First, it describes the multiplicity of armed actors that are present in the Sahel and the humanitarian situation in this region. Next, it addresses the legal framework applicable to humanitarian access under IHL applicable in non-international armed conflicts. The article then examines the measures that have been taken by the States of the Sahel to protect the civilian population and humanitarian organizations, such as the resort to declaration of states of emergency and to armed escorts. It is shown that these measures can hinder the delivery of impartial humanitarian assistance. Finally, the article describes some creative solutions that have been put forward by Sahelian States to facilitate humanitarian access. Examples of these include the creation of coordination mechanisms to foster dialogue on humanitarian access where all concerned actors are invited to participate; the adoption of domestic legal frameworks related to humanitarian access through which this access is proclaimed and its violation sanctioned; and the recognition of humanitarian exemptions in counterterrorism laws.
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