To highlight the immense needs in the Sahel and scale up its response to the deepening crisis, UNHCR has launched an appeal on 12 June 2020 for US$ 186 million to scale up its shelter and education interventions and better address SGBV and other protection needs.
The security situation remains extremely precarious in the region. In response to the killing of the head of AQIM, Abdelmalek Droukdel, the Katiba Macina reportedly attacked an army convoy on 14 June killing 24 soldiers in the deadliest attack against the Malian force since the beginning of the year.
Concerned with the growing number of human rights violations in the region, UNHCR and its humanitarian partners issued a joint statement on 12 June calling the G5 Sahel and the international forces to commit to protect civilians and to ensure humanitarian access.
Political and security developments
▪ The security situation continues to deteriorate rapidly in the Sahel, causing humanitarian needs to reach unprecedented levels and prompting the international community to reiterate its call for the protection of civilians. Conflict, climate shocks, endemic poverty, and chronic vulnerabilities are exacerbated by the COVID- 19 pandemic, creating an additional burden on governments’ limited resources. Coupled with the lean season which has just begun and is predicted to be one of the most serious in decades, it is feared that this situation will likely generate significant displacement of populations within the region and beyond: possibly southward to coastal countries, as well as northward to North Africa and Europe.
▪ In Burkina Faso, during the month of June, armed groups continued operations against Government forces and civilian populations in the regions of the, Centre North, East, North and the Sahel, including through roadside ambushes and explosive devices. These groups have shown their capacity to lead coordinated operations both inside the country as well as on the other side of the borders, in particular in Mali and Niger. Recently, some incidents were reported near the border with the Cote d’Ivoire confirming that they have also been reinforcing their presence in the South West of the country. Humanitarian access continues to be impeded, especially to Djibo and the Mentao refugee camp in the Sahel region. UNHCR’s beneficiaries have been directly impacted by the worsening of the situation. In particular, two refugees were injured following the detonation of an explosive device (IEDs) on the way from Djibo to Mentao refugee camp. UNHCR’s health partner and the Commission nationale pour les réfugiés (CONAREF) facilitated their transfer to the medical centre in Djibo, where they received treatment for their injuries. In addition, two private trucks transporting food provided by WFP for refugees and IDPs in Djibo, were hijacked by armed men. This incident delayed the provision of food for UNHCR’s beneficiaries for June.
▪ In Mali,the security situation remains complex and unstable, marked by extremist and criminal activities,mainly in the North and the Centre of the country. On 3 June, the Operation Barkhane announced the killing of the head of AQIM, Abdelmalek Droukdel and several of his close associates during an operation in northern Mali near the Algerian border. The Katiba Macina reportedly carried out a revenge attack against a Malian army convoy in the commune of Diabaly, Niono cercle in the Ségou region, on 14 June. A total of 24 soldiers were killed and 32 are still missing in what represents the deadliest attack against the Malian force since the beginning of the year. At the same time, social unrest further increased, with thousands of Malians taking to the streets of the capital to demand the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubakar Keita, on 5 and 19 June. Both social demonstrations followed a call made by the new alliance called “Mouvement du 5 juin - Rassemblement des Forces Patriotiques" (M5-RFP). Other smaller protests took place in other cities as well. Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect almost the entire country, including the northern and central regions that lack medical facilities.
▪ In Mauritania, the overall political and security situation remains stable, though continued instability in Mali remains of major concern. The government of Mauritania has included refugees in its national health response to COVID 19 in line with its pledges during the Global Refugee Forum.
▪ In Niger, while much focus of the humanitarian and development community is now on COVID-19, conflict dynamics continued to cause forced movements of the population in the Sahel. The continuous insecurity in the Tillabery and Tahoua regions and the violent attack that took place in Intikane on 30 May 2020 continued to force a growing number of Niger citizens to flee their homes seeking safety within the country or across the border to Mali. Following the attack, a rapid protection evaluation mission as well as a security evaluation mission were organized by UNHCR and its partners to assess the situation and respond to the most pressing needs of the populations in Intikane and those who fled.
▪ The past weeks have seen several documented reports, including by the MINUSMA, of very serious human right violations (including numerous extrajudicial killings) at the hands of national security forces in Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad. Concerned with these growing instances of human rights violations, UNHCR along with other United Nations humanitarian agencies and non-governmental organizations have issued a joint- statement on 12 June calling the G5 Sahel countries and the international forces to commit to protect civilian populations during their operations and to ensure unhindered humanitarian access. In an effort to curb the escalating violence, the leaders from the G5 Sahel countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger) and French President Emmanuel Macron met in Nouakchott in Mauritania on 30 June, to discuss a common strategy to improve the security situation in the region while addressing the humanitarian and development crisis.