UNHCR Regional Situation Update: Central Sahel Situation, July – December 2019

The Central Sahel countries of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger continue to be confronted with multifaceted crises. Weak governance, violent extremism, severe climate change, food insecurity, rapid demographic growth and large-scale forced displacement intersect and transcend borders, deepening the region’s vulnerability to shocks and creating spillovers into neighbouring countries. Despite the presence of thousands of troops from affected countries, supported by the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (the MINUSMA), France and other international contingents, the security situation deteriorated further during the second half of 2019. Rising numbers of incidents and forced displacements have been observed, especially in the Liptako-Gourma area, where the three countries share common borders. As a result of the deteriorating security situation, UNHCR and its partners must contend with a shrinking humanitarian space in the face of declining access to populations at risk. Exploiting these underlying fragility factors, armed groups have sustained their attacks against civilian targets, such as schools and health centres, as well as state institutions and security forces. As insecurity continues to spread throughout Burkina Faso reaching its southern border, neighboring areas in CAte d’Ivoire, Togo, Ghana and Benin run the risk of being destabilized.

MAIN HIGHLIGHTS

? The continuous deterioration of the security situation and scale-up of military operations in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger drastically limits humanitarian access and assistance in the most affected areas. With over 4,000 deaths reported, 2019 saw the highest annual death toll due to armed conflict in the region since the beginning of the conflict in Mali in 2012.

? Internal displacement has skyrocketted since July. In Burkina Faso, the number of people internally displaced reached over 560,000 at the end of 2019, which represents a 1,200 per cent increase since January. In Mali, the number of internally displaced persons practically doubled in 2019, reaching over 200,000.

? The Regional Dialogue on Protection and Solutions hosted by the Government of Mali and UNHCR in Bamako on 11-12 September was attended by Government officials and partners from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania and Niger to discuss forced-displacement in the Sahel region. The participants reconfirmed the need to search for durable solutions for persons forced to flee while ensuring that protection of persons affected by the conflict remains at the core of all interventions.

Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees