Felicity Salina, International Law Officer
A recent statement by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) revealed that over one million people have been driven out of their homes in West Africa’s Burkina Faso as a result of escalating violence, with a total of 453,000 since the beginning of the year alone. This figure makes up five percent of the country’s population, rendering the mass displacement the most alarming humanitarian and protection crisis in the world today.
“Attacks by armed groups in the north and east of the country have forced people to move multiple times and are set to push the numbers still higher”, stated Babar Baloch, a Spokesperson for UNHCR Geneva, at a press briefing on Tuesday 18 August.
Displaced persons are reported to live in devastating conditions, as means of basis subsistence are rapidly decreasing. “They desperately need shelter, food, water, protection, health. Education also remains a priority, as over 2,500 schools have been forced to close after being targeted thus affecting almost 350,000 students,” Mr Baloch told journalists.
In addition to its own displacement crisis, Burkina Faso has been hosting an estimate of 20,000 Malian refugees since 2012, adding further strain on resources. Conditions are particularly deteriorating in the Mentao and Goudoubo refugee camps. Both had been both home to some 15,000 refugees until attacks and threats by armed groups forced them to seek shelter elsewhere.
The UNCHR has pledged to provide $186m worth of protection and assistance to refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), returnees, and host communities in the Sahel region, which encompasses Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger.
Read UNHCR’s full statement on Burkina Faso’s mass displacement here: