Sahel displaced now more than 3.5 million, agencies warn

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Drought has affected residents of the Mbera refugee camp, Mauritania, in the Sahel region of Africa. Photo: WFP/Justin Smith

The number of people who have fled their homes in Africa’s Sahel region has reached over 3.5 million, more than doubling in the past 16 months, UN aid experts warned Thursday.

Armed groups are now a major driver of the problem, which has created huge difficulties for struggling host communities.

Daniel Johnson has more.

Chronic emergencies such as lack of food have traditionally made life extraordinarily difficult for millions of people in Africa’s Sahel region.

But in the last 16 months it’s fighting inside and outside the nine-country zone that’s made their problems much worse.

Here’s Robert Piper, senior UN humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel:

“We’re watching hundreds of thousands of people cross borders or even within their own countries but moving into communities to seek sanctuary that are themselves extraordinarily vulnerable…many people move with their animals so there’s this very dangerous dynamic of displacement into acute vulnerability.”

In north-east Nigeria, violence linked to Boko Haram militants has forced people into neighbouring countries such as Niger and Cameroon.

The new Nigerian government’s pledge to drive out Boko Haram is good news, Piper said, although the “euphoria” linked to president Muhammudu Buhari’s election has not yet helped those in need.

In northern Mali, Piper said the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSMA has lost 49 personnel to attacks since it began in mid-2013, making access for humanitarian workers harder and more expensive.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations

Duration: 1’12″

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