Ph: Burkina-Faso-Wat FM

The security situation in Burkina Faso and the entire Sahel is becoming increasingly alarming. Attacks by armed groups and jihadists are much more frequent, such as the latest attacks in Burkina Faso, which have killed several people. The Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), through a statement, sounded the alarm.

UNHCR press release

UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, joins its partners in warning of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the central and northern regions of Burkina Faso, where the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians are daily disrupted by insecurity and violence. Some 486,000 people have been forced to flee the country’s interior, including 267,000 in the last three months alone. Another 16,000 are refugees in neighbouring countries.

The escalation of armed violence has led to an unprecedented humanitarian emergency in the Sahel. During our visit to Kaya, northeast of Ouagadougou, and Barsalogho, in the central province of Sanmatenga, we witnessed the dramatic impact of these tragic events on the affected population.

Thousands of people are on the move, exhausted and trying to find security among host families or at transit and official travel sites. Many have been displaced several times. The chances of immediate return to their country of origin are low. As a result, their needs and those of host families, already vulnerable due to food and nutrition crises in the region, are increasing. Women and adolescent girls are particularly at risk from the lack of health and other essential services.

The people we met have experienced horrible and traumatic events. More than 500 people have reportedly been killed in 472 attacks and counter-military operations since last year. We have heard reports that attacks and widespread insecurity have seriously compromised basic services such as health care and education, as well as freedom of movement.

Currently, the 13 regions of Burkina Faso are hosting people fleeing violence. The Centre-North region hosts the largest number of displaced people – more than 196,000 in Sanmatenga province alone – followed by the Sahel region – 133,000 in Soum province. Some 1.5 million people are now in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in the country. We also remain extremely concerned about the 31,000 Malian refugees also affected by the ongoing conflict.

One thing was absolutely clear. Humanitarian needs are increasing rapidly as conflicts and insecurity continue to devastate hundreds of thousands of lives. Host communities are already impoverished and live on the margins themselves. Food, water, shelter and health care must be provided and strengthened immediately if we are to avoid another tragedy in this tragedy. Malnutrition and famine are a real threat.

We need urgent resources to launch a coordinated humanitarian response – an immediate necessity to save lives.

Armed groups have also intensified their attacks in Burkina Faso, countries neighbouring Mali and Niger. The regions around the borders of the three countries are new sources of violence. Operating in poor and sparsely populated areas with a low government presence, armed groups move across borders and expand areas of influence. The attacks have already affected Benin in 2019. Globally, 5.4 million people in the affected regions are in urgent need of assistance, including 3.2 million in Mali and 700,000 in western Niger.

In the margins of our annual meeting of the Executive Committee this week, the High Commissioner observed government representatives from the following countries: Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Chad and Mauritania reaffirm their commitment to work together to address displacement issues, so that people fleeing violence can seek safe and secure in their own countries and across borders. These commitments stem from the conclusions of the Dialogues on the Protection of the Sahel held in Bamako last month by UNHCR and the malian government.

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