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Conflicts in Africa’s Sahel displace 3.5 million: UN

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A bus carrying displaced people from the Diffa region, fleeing fighting between army and Boko Haram, are checked by police on the outskirts of Zinder, Niger, on February 13, 2014. ©AFP

The UN says the number of people who have fled their homes in Africa’s Sahel has more than doubled in the past 16 months, crossing the 3.5 million mark.

Robert Piper, the UN regional humanitarian coordinator in the Sahel, said on Thursday that the region which is home to some of the world’s poorest countries is facing a "very troubling dynamic," warning that displacement linked to conflicts in the region is "really escalating dramatically."

"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,” Piper, who is also the UN assistant secretary general, told reporters in the Swiss city of Geneva.

The Sahel includes nine countries, namely Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal. All the countries in the Sahel region suffer from food insecurity, malnutrition and epidemics.

The violence by Boko Haram in Nigeria, which has spilled over into neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger, has caused much of the widespread displacement of people in the region.

Boko Haram Takfiri militants have carried out crimes like terrorist attacks, kidnapping young boys, girls and women and executing people.

Some 15,000 people are believed to have been killed and about 1.5 million others displaced due to Boko Haram violence since 2009.

Elderly men fleeing Boko Haram attacks try to share food items distributed at Kabalewa Refugees Camp, in Diffa, Niger, on March 13, 2015. ©AFP

Conflicts outside Sahel

The UN official warned that conflicts outside the Sahel are also contributing to the displacement of people in the region, adding that violence in places like Darfur and the Central African Republic have caused people to flee into Sahel countries.

He said that the violence in the region is also hampering aid organizations’ ability to reach and protect the most vulnerable.

At the beginning of 2014, the UN had reported that around 1.6 million people were displaced across the nine Sahel countries.

Last week, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) voiced concern over the severe humanitarian crisis caused by the Boko Haram in Nigeria and underlined the need for extra funding to support the victims.


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