As attacks on civilians and security forces by jihadist groups in Burkina Faso become more frequent and increasingly violent, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is calling for concerted action to address record-breaking numbers of people forced to flee inside the country and across international borders.
According to new figures from the Burkinabè government – released this week, more than 1.3 million Burkinabè have been internally displaced in just over two years. Six per cent of Burkina Faso’s population is now displaced inside the country.
The speed of internal displacement shows no sign of slowing as attacks on civilians and security forces continue unabated. In the first half of 2021, 237,000 people fled their homes to other parts of Burkina Faso, a sharp increase compared to the 96,000 registered during the second half of 2020.
UNHCR is equally alarmed by an acceleration in the numbers of people from Burkina Faso forced to cross a border to reach safety. Since January, more than 17,500 people have fled to neighbouring countries, nearly doubling the total number of refugees from the country in just six months. There are now 38,000 Burkinabè refugees and asylum seekers across the region.
Neighbouring Niger is home to 11,400 Burkinabè asylum seekers, up from 7,400 at the beginning of the year. UNHCR, its partners and the authorities are providing food, shelter, relief items and health care. Unfortunately, as violence and insecurity continue to impede humanitarian access.
Last month, some 900 asylum seekers arrived in Niger from Solhan in Burkina Faso after fleeing the deadliest attack in the country since 2015, when 130 people were killed.
Mali currently hosts 20,000 Burkinabè asylum seekers, with 6,600 people arriving in Timbuktu region this year alone. As security conditions limit humanitarian access in this part of Mali, it is possible this number is higher.
In northern Benin, a UNHCR mission recently registered 179 Burkinabè asylum seekers. But thousands more are reportedly living in border areas inaccessible to humanitarian workers for security reasons. UNHCR’s government partner in Benin, the National Committee for Refugees, is currently preparing a contingency plan to assist at least 4,500 asylum seekers.
Continuing this worrying trend, Côte d’Ivoire received its first Burkinabè asylum seekers in May when some 430 people arrived seeking safety. UNHCR, together with UNICEF, Caritas and our governmental partner have provided shelter and hygiene kits.
UNHCR reiterates its call for concerted action towards peace and stability in Burkina Faso and neighbouring Central Sahel countries, Mali and Niger, which are also experiencing a sharp rise in violence and displacement. Together with our partners, we stand ready to assist those newly displaced and to support the authorities and host communities on the frontlines of the response.
More resources are urgently needed to address growing humanitarian needs in Burkina Faso and neighbouring countries. UNHCR’s funding requirements for the Central Sahel in 2021 is US$259.3 million. So far only half of the funds requested have been received.