In the Central Sahel countries of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, a longstanding lack of development and increasing competition over natural resources have created an environment exploited by non-state armed groups (NSAG), exacerbating inter-communal conflict. Tensions are occurring in two different areas of the region: in the Liptako-Gourma area at the border of the three countries and in Eastern Niger. In the Liptako-Gourma area, violent acts have expanded from Mali in 2012 to Niger and later Burkina Faso, which also highlights the high risk of conflict spillover to neighbouring States in the region. Tensions in Eastern Niger originate from the Lake Chad Basin area. These complex crises are exacerbated by climatic variability, demographic pressure, high poverty levels, and the absence of state institutions in most impacted regions. This context creates a lack of access to basic services and livelihood opportunities, contributing to disaffection. NSAG activity has increased exponentially and expanded geographically in recent years, restricting access for State, humanitarian, and development actors to the areas in most need of support. The crises also generate significant protection concerns and needs, with frequent human rights violations committed by all forces and armed groups, widespread violence, notably towards women and children, the presence of explosive devices, forced recruitments into NSAGs, kidnappings, a lack of access to documentation and justice, and massive forced displacements. In the fall of 2020, according to IOM’s DTM, national authorities, UNHCR, and OCHA, over 1.5 million people across all three States have been internally displaced by the ongoing crises. All three countries are also currently going through sensitive political transitions and/or elections.
As part of its efforts to support the Governments’ responses in the Central Sahel region, IOM has been scaling up its operations in the three countries to provide life-saving support to displaced and vulnerable persons affected by the growing crises, while seeking to reduce conflict drivers across the Central Sahel and prevent expansion of the conflict into bordering regions and countries.