Update of UNHCR’s operations in Africa, 14 September 2018
Regional update - Africa
Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Programme
Sixty-ninth session 1-5 October 2018
A. Situational context
The sub-Saharan Africa region remains host to the largest number of persons of concern to UNHCR. By the end of 2017, there were an estimated 24.2 million people of concern in the region, an increase of 4.6 million since 2016. This includes 6.3 million refugees and 14.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs). In the first half of 2018, the numbers increased, with some 170,000 new refugees and over two million new IDPs - mainly from the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan.
The complex humanitarian situation was compounded by other factors, including drought and food security, which brought some areas to the brink of famine. Due to global funding shortages, nine operations are currently affected by food ration cuts (Cameroon, Chad,
Djibouti, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Rwanda, South Sudan, the United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia), where the affected population is estimated at some 2.4 million people. In addition, insecurity and lack of humanitarian access, have severely constrained the ability of UNHCR and its partners to respond to emergencies and to deliver protection and solutions to those in need.
While solutions remained limited (particularly local integration and resettlement opportunities), organized voluntary returns took place for smaller groups of refugees from Burundi, Chad, the Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Rwanda, Somalia and Sudan.
Central Africa and the Great Lakes
The Democratic Republic of the Congo was severely affected by new waves of displacement in the east, including in Tanganyika and South Kivu provinces, while intercommunal conflict in the Kasai region resulted in internal displacement and movements across the border to Angola. This brought the total number of IDPs to over 4.5 million, while the number of refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the region increased by 16 per cent, from 537,000 to 620,800. These figures are expected to rise significantly due to political uncertainty linked to the presidential elections in December 2018, potentially generating further violence. The Democratic Republic of the Congo also continued to host nearly 542,000 refugees, mainly from Rwanda (219,000), the Central African Republic (182,000) and South Sudan (91,000).
The situation in the Central African Republic deteriorated due to widespread violence and clashes between rival armed groups, as well as an increase in reprisals targeting the civilian population. By the end of June, nearly 1.3 million people had fled their homes, including some 687,000 IDPs and over 568,000 refugees in neighbouring countries. This is the highest recorded level of displacement since the beginning of the conflict in 2013. The situation remains complex, with an unstable security environment, restricted access to many areas and limited resources to meet the needs.
The Burundi refugee crisis entered its fourth year, and refugees continued to arrive in neighbouring countries – although less than in previous years. There are currently over 169,000 IDPs and some 430,000 Burundi refugees in the region. Severe underfunding is challenging the ability of UNHCR and its partners to meet the minimum standards of humanitarian assistance. While conditions for organized returns are not yet in place, since September 2017 UNHCR has continued to assist refugees who wish to return on their own from the United Republic of Tanzania.
East Africa and the Horn of Africa
Following renewed violence that broke out in South Sudan in July 2016, there are now an estimated 2.5 million South Sudanese refugees in neighbouring countries and 1.8 million IDPs. This makes the South Sudan situation the largest displacement crisis in the region.
Compounded by a general state of lawlessness and severe food shortages, population movements across borders continue, with 84,000 South Sudanese refugees arriving in neighbouring countries during the first half of 2018. The signature of the Khartoum Declaration of Agreement between Parties to the Conflict in South Sudan in June 2018 marked an important step towards securing peace in the country.
Somalia remains one of the most protracted refugee situations in the world, with more than 2.65 million people internally displaced and some 820,000 Somali refugees in the Horn of Africa and Yemen as of mid-2018. The humanitarian situation remained serious, with recent flooding affecting more than one million people in the central and southern regions.
In Ethiopia, drought and violence in the south-west have led to a significant rise in internal displacement, especially along the borders of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples' region and the Oromia region, leading to the internal displacement of an estimated one million people. As a result, the number of IDPs in Ethiopia increased to some 2.8 million as of mid-August 2018.
The situation in the sub-region, particularly in the countries surrounding the Lake Chad Basin, was characterized by multiple armed conflicts, violent extremism and human rights violations, coupled with growing poverty, severe food and water shortages, and drought.
This triggered significant population movements towards northern Africa, as well as within and across borders in large swathes of western Africa.
Five years into the crisis in Nigeria, the displacement situation remained grave, with ongoing hostilities in the north. As of end July, there were close to 2.4 million IDPs in the country and over 227,000 Nigerian refugees in Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Violent attacks have increased, leading to a rise in civilian casualties, and humanitarian access to IDP sites remains limited. UNHCR has continued to voice concern about the voluntariness of the returns from Cameroon to Nigeria, noting that the minimum conditions of safety were not yet in place.
In Cameroon, population movements remained dynamic in the Far North region due to the activities of cross-border insurgents, and maintaining asylum space and respect for the principle of non-refoulement was of particular concern. In the second half of 2017, Nigeria began receiving large numbers of Anglophone Cameroonians, exacerbating the already complex humanitarian situation in the country. As of the end of July 2018, some 239,000 people were internally displaced, and there were 24,000 Cameroonian refugees in Nigeria.
In Mali, the volatile situation in the northern and central parts of the country, as well as insecurity in the border areas, led to continued displacement. As of June 2018, there were some 51,800 IDPs in the country and more than 130,000 refugees in Burkina Faso,
Mauritania and Niger. In 2018, approximately 30,000 refugees were newly displaced, including 11,500 people who fled from Mali to the Tillabéri region of Niger. At the same time, the deterioration of the security situation in Burkina Faso has also led to the internal displacement of approximately 15,000 Burkinabé citizens as well as the flight of over 7,000 to Mali.
The situation in Southern Africa continues to be relatively stable with improving prospects for the voluntary repatriation of Namibian, Mozambican and Zimbabwean refugees. Angola and Zambia continued to receive Congolese refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo.