In recent weeks, violence worsened in the Sahel region of Africa, causing hundreds of people to flee and putting greater pressure on host communities. UNHCR has issued a warning about the humanitarian situation in the area.
UNHCR on Thursday warned of worsening violence in the central Sahel region of Africa. The UN agency noted that the persecution of hundreds of innocent civilians in recent weeks had led many to flee and hindered humanitarian assistance.
A statement issued by the organization said that attacks conducted by armed groups and the resulting counteroffensive by security forces had led to more people fleeing.
The attacks were also putting greater pressure on host communities that often already had a large number of IDPs, who had fled previous violence, according to the statement.
'Unfathomable and incomprehensible' attacks
In a statement, UNHCR said that the "latest attack on the Binedama village in central Mali's volatile Mopti region, on June 5, killed 26 civilians." Armed groups also targeted a refugee hosting area at Intikane in western Niger and killed two refugee leaders and one leader from the local community on May 31.
This resulted in more than 10,000 people seeking shelter further inland around Telemces where UNHCR and partners have assisted in the rapid provision of some 1,180 temporary shelters.
Nevertheless, living conditions there are "deplorable" with water and health major concerns.
"The continuing attacks on civilians in the Sahel which have crippled life in the border towns and areas are unfathomable, incomprehensible," said Millicent Mutuli, UNHCR's Regional Director for West and Central Africa. "People are being displaced multiple times and are in desperate need of our help. We are doing the best we can to bring in assistance in spite of the challenging times."
The statement was in reference to the COVID-19 pandemic and some of the limitations which arise from the response.
Situation 'desperate' in central Sahel
Refugees finding themselves in the Liptako-Gourma, the border triangle where Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger converge, are seeking safety in areas that are also plagued by violence and poverty.
Many have been displaced several times. In response, UNHCR has provided shelter assistance to over 25,000 families and aims to conclude the distribution of relief items to 16,500 families by the end June 2020. However, humanitarian activities are seriously hampered by escalating insecurity, the impact of COVID-19 and a lack of adequate resources.
Since an initial outbreak in northern Mali in 2011, armed conflict has spread to central Mali, to Niger and to Burkina Faso in what has become one of the fastest growing displacement crises in the world.
Millions have fled indiscriminate attacks by armed groups against civilians such as summary executions, the widespread use of rape against women, and attacks against state institutions, including schools and health facilities.
In Burkina Faso in particular, the number of IDPs rose from 560,000 in early February to 848,000 at the end of April, representing 288,000 additional people in approximately three months.
"The humanitarian situation is extremely dire in the central Sahel. Displaced families live in overcrowded sites, access to basic services is minimal and we are racing against time to scale up our response in the face of new needs growing faster than available resources," UNHCR's Mutuli added.