EYEAFRICA TV: Geneva, SWITZERLAND: – UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has on Friday called for an end to the unrelenting violence in Africa’s Sahel region which has now displaced more than two million people within the borders of their countries for the first time ever.
According to the agency, there were 490,000 internally displaced people at the beginning of 2019, and this figure has quadrupled in just two years. More than half of them are from Burkina Faso.
The Sahel – which includes Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, and Niger — is home to some of the world’s least developed countries, and the communities hosting the displaced have reached a breaking point.
“Needs are surging across a region where multiple crises converge including armed conflict, extreme poverty, food insecurity, climatic changes, and the COVID-19 pandemic,” the refugee agency’s spokesperson, Boris Cheshirkov said at a briefing in Geneva.
“The extreme vulnerability of the Sahel has been laid bare by the impact of forced displacement, caused by widespread and gruesome violence perpetrated by armed insurgent groups and criminal gangs.
“The humanitarian response is dangerously overstretched, and UNHCR is urging the international community to redouble its support for the region,” he said.
Apart from the internally displaced, the Sahel also hosts over 850,000 refugees, mainly from Mali.
Already this year, violence in Niger and Burkina Faso has forced more than 21,000 people to flee their homes and seek refuge within their own countries.
“In Burkina Faso, since 31 December, a series of armed attacks on the town of Koumbri and nearby villages in the North of the country have displaced more than 11,000 people. Most are women and children who fled at night after attackers began shooting at their homes. They have reached safety and are now staying within local communities in Ouahigouya and Barga, some 35 kilometres away,” he added.
“Across the region, UNHCR and its partners are working to provide critical assistance to hundreds of thousands of displaced people and their hosts, such as shelter, aid items, and cash. Our teams are also working to prevent and respond to instances of sexual violence, which have become widespread. We are rehabilitating schools and classrooms and supporting distance learning opportunities.”