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Humanitarian Crisis in the Sahel: Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso (May 2019)

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Violence and insecurity have escalated to unprecedented levels in parts of Burkina Faso, Mali and western Niger. The impact on the affected people is dramatic. Expanding conflict is threatening lives and livelihoods, compounding food insecurity and malnutrition, and jeopardizing peace and social cohesion. Concerted, bolstered action is urgently required to bring relief to the most vulnerable and curtail the spread of the crisis.

Since 2018, the number of violent incidents in the region has reached levels two to four times higher than at the peak of the Mali crisis in 2013. Armed groups are operating across borders in vast areas that are mostly impoverished and sparsely populated. Tensions in communities with deep-rooted grievances are growing, exacerbated by the conflict dynamics and armed groups’ agendas. Increasingly, violence is directly targeting civilians. In Burkina Faso, armed attacks are spreading to the East and southern border areas. The risk of spillover into neighbouring coastal countries is growing.

Across the region, the number of displaced people has sharply increased, heightening protection risks. In Mali, the number of internally displaced people has more than doubled over the past year to reach around 100,000. Burkina Faso faces unprecedented displacement with more than 100,000 people uprooted in 2019 alone. In Niger’s Tillaberi and Tahoua regions, violence has forced more than 70,000 people from their homes.

Insecurity is severely disrupting basic social services, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without access to adequate education and health care. Across the region, more than 1,800 schools had to close due to attacks. More than 80 health centres are not functioning or provide minimum service. Enhanced efforts are required to provide urgent, essential services and maintain access to the most vulnerable populations.

The number of people requiring food and nutrition assistance remains high and families are still struggling to recover from the last drought. Some 1.8 million people are facing critical food insecurity. Severe acute malnutrition is threatening the lives of around 400,000 children. Insecurity and movement restrictions are exacerbating the vulnerability of pastoral and farmer communities. Fast emergency relief, sustained response and investment in prevention are needed to save lives and lift people out of crisis.

In 2019, 5.1 million people will need assistance. Supporting national and local authorities, humanitarian partners are stepping up operations to save lives and alleviate human suffering. Building on experience in the region, 248 organisations are operating across the affected areas, working with local partners, finding ways to expand access and reach the most vulnerable.

However, needs are currently outpacing available resources. The humanitarian response plans in the three countries appeal for a total of US$ 600 million to reach 3.7 million people with aid.
Four months into 2019, the average funding stands at only 19 per cent.

Beyond immediate humanitarian aid, concerted action and strong partnership among local communities, Governments, humanitarian and development actors, and international partners are required. Only a coordinated, holistic approach will curb the current trend and lead to meaningful improvement in the lives of millions of people in the Sahel.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.