Conflicts displace 3.5m in Africa's Sahel region - UN

2015-05-29 10:42


Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Geneva - The number of people displaced by conflicts in Africa's Sahel has more than doubled in just over a year to a staggering 3.5 million, the United Nations said on Thursday.

At the beginning of 2014, the UN humanitarian agency had reported that around 1.6 million people were displaced across the nine Sahel countries: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal.

The region is home to some of the world's poorest countries that have long been plagued by food insecurity, malnutrition and epidemics.

But UN Assistant Secretary General Robert Piper, who coordinates the UN's humanitarian work in the Sahel, warned that on top of those chronic crises the region was facing a "very troubling dynamic" in which displacement linked to conflicts was "really escalating dramatically".

Across the region, he told reporters in Geneva, "there is a very big increase in the number of people affected by conflict, who have been pushed from their homes and from their livelihoods as a result".

Peaceful elections

The violence by Boko Haram militants in northeastern Nigeria, and spilling over into neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger, has spurred much of the displacement.

The Boko Haram insurgency has claimed at least 15 000 lives and forced some 1.5 million people to flee their homes since 2009.

Also fuelling displacement is the continued unrest in northern Mali, which has been dogged by violence from jihadists groups that seized control from Tuareg rebels before being routed by a French-led international intervention in 2013.

Around 150 000 Malians had fled to neighbouring countries by the middle of last year, while an equal number were displaced inside the country.

Despite peaceful elections after the French operation, the country remains divided and the north has seen a recent upsurge in attacks that has forced some 31 000 people from their homes in the past two weeks alone, the World Food Programme said on Tuesday.

'Severe protection crisis'

Conflicts outside the Sahel are also contributing to the displacement in the region, with violence in places like Darfur and the Central African Republic sending refugees fleeing into Sahel countries, Piper said.

The widespread displacement is taking a heavy toll on host communities which are themselves often poor and "extraordinarily vulnerable", he added.

In the southern Niger Diffa region, for instance, where more than half of inhabitants are already food insecure, a flood of Nigerian refugees has doubled the population, putting "tremendous pressure" on food, water and other resources, Piper said.

The violence forcing so many people to flee is also hampering aid organisations' ability to reach and protect the most vulnerable, he said.

On top of this "very, very severe protection crisis", UN operations in Sahel are facing a significant funding shortfall, having so far received only 22% of the $2.0bn they have appealed for in the region this year.

"This has very practical consequences in terms of what we can and can't do in terms of the numbers of people that we can and can't reach," Piper said, urging donor countries to step up.

Read more on:    un  |  cameroon  |  mauritania  |  senegal  |  burkina faso  |  niger  |  nigeria  |  mali  |  chad  |  gambia  |  west africa

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.