The chaos in Libya, where Islamic State fighters are said to be gaining a foothold, threatens to engulf countries in the Sahel and must be quickly brought under control, a UN envoy warned Thursday.
Ethiopian diplomat Hiroute Guebre Sellassie told the Security Council that the humanitarian and security crises in the Sahel were worsening and pointed to turmoil in Libya as a key factor.
"If the situation in Libya is not quickly brought under control, many states in the region could be destabilized in the near future," said the UN envoy for the Sahel.
Libya has been sliding deeper into crises, torn by rival governments and parliaments battling powerful militias, despite UN efforts to broker talks on ending the violence.
The Security Council last month added the Libyan Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia to its terror list over its links to Al-Qaeda and for running training camps for Islamic State fighters sent to Syria and Iraq.
Guebre Sellassie said terrorist and criminal networks in Libya were developing closer ties to Mali and northern Nigeria, dealing in arms sales and drug trafficking among other illegal trade.
Close to 20,000 arms have poured into the Sahel from Libya and most of the 18 tonnes of cocaine, worth $1.25 billion, sent to West Africa transits through the region, she said.
Human trafficking is rife, with children making up 60 percent of the victims, she added.
Acute malnutrition is on the rise, with 6.4 million people now suffering from food shortages, up from five million at the beginning of the year.
The number of people driven from their homes has doubled from 1.6 million in January to 3.3 million, said Guebre Sellasie.