UNHCR called the humanitarian response in Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger “dangerously outdated”.
More than two million people have been forced to flee their homes within their own country’s borders due to the violence in Africa’s Sahel region, the UN refugee agency said.
The humanitarian response is “dangerously overwhelmed” in an area covering parts of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger, UNHCR said on Friday.
UNHCR spokesman Boris Cheshirkov told reporters in Geneva that “the relentless violence” must end.
He said the figure of two million internally displaced people had more than quadrupled since the start of 2019.
“The extreme vulnerability of the Sahel has been exposed by the impact of forced displacement, caused by widespread and horrific violence perpetrated by armed insurgent groups and criminal gangs,” he said.
He said countries were in particular need of help with schools and hospitals, many of which have closed due to the violence.
🚨A grim milestone: there are now more than 2 million displaced people in the countries of the Sahel region of Africa.
– UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency (@Refugees) January 22, 2021
Armed groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and ISIS (ISIL), once confined to lawless areas in northern Mali, have spread in recent years in the arid scrublands of the Sahel, Burkina Faso and Niger. , stoking ethnic tensions while seeking power and attacking security forces, who have also been accused of serious abuses.
The deteriorating security situation has created a huge humanitarian crisis, destroying fragile agricultural economies and hampering aid efforts.
Lack of a “ basic shelter ”
More than half of the displaced people in the region are in poor Burkina Faso, which has been under attack since 2015, when fighters came from neighboring Mali.
The problems in Burkina Faso have intensified in recent weeks, Cheshirkov said.
More than 11,000 people, mostly women and children, fled attacks in and around the northern town of Koumbri earlier this month, he said.
They are safe and UNHCR is building shelters and distributing aid.
“Despite the generosity of their hosts, many displaced people [internally displaced persons] lack basic shelter and sleep in the open, ”Cheshirkov said.
“States must act now to help Sahel countries tackle the root causes of this forced displacement, to spur strategic and sustainable development and to strengthen institutions such as schools and hospitals, many of which have closed due to violence continues. The situation has worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “
In addition to the internally displaced people, more than 850,000 people have fled Mali and sought refuge in other countries.
Across the Sahel, UNHCR and other agencies are working to help hundreds of thousands of displaced people with shelter, aid and money, the spokesperson said.
“Our teams are also working to prevent and respond to cases of sexual violence, which have become widespread,” he added.