The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, wrapped up in Burkina Faso a three-nation visit to the Sahel region, and expressed his alarm about the rapidly deteriorating situation across the region, where escalating insecurity has forced a rising number of people to flee their homes.
“The emergency is here, in the Sahel, where people are suffering, are being killed, women are being raped, children cannot go to school,” said Grandi. “Sahel is the place where we must intervene before this crisis becomes unmanageable.”
Meeting with the Presidents of Burkina Faso and Niger, along with the Government of Mauritania, the High Commissioner praised these countries for continuing to welcome refugees while themselves facing humanitarian emergencies such as in Niger and Burkina Faso. “In the Sahel, some of the poorest countries in the world remain some of the most generous,” said Grandi, acknowledging the solidarity that Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso extend to some 165,000 refugees fleeing Mali, where the security situation does not show signs of improvement.
“Despite the many challenges these three countries face today, we don’t see this kind of engagement in most parts of the world”, said Grandi, praising solutions to long-term forced displacement that foster social cohesion between host communities, refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs).
The number of IDPs in Burkina Faso has risen ten-fold in 2019 alone, reaching a total of 560,000. Another 70,000 people were displaced in neighbouring Mali during the same year, pushing the country’s displaced population over the 200,000 mark. In total, the Central Sahel region currently shelters over a million refugees and IDPs.
“The stories I heard in Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso are shocking. Stories of killings by armed groups, stories of destruction of homes, schools and health centres, stories of violence against women,” said the High Commissioner.
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