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Sahel emergency


Sahel emergency

The Sahel is facing one of the fastest-growing displacement crises in the world – and yet it is one of the most forgotten. 

Intense and indiscriminate violence has forced millions to flee across the region, both within countries and across borders.

This deteriorating humanitarian and protection emergency is further compounded by the impact of the climate crisis, COVID-19, and food insecurity.
Nigerian refugees carry plastic sheeting to cover shelters at Sayam Forage refugee camp in Diffa, Niger.

“I was so frightened. The whole family – including my grandmother, aunt, and my husband’s brothers and sisters – met up and left the village. We set off on foot without any belongings. There were about 40 of us, and it took us 20 hours to reach Ouahigouya.”

–Aguiratou, internally displaced woman from northern Burkina Faso

The conflict in Africa’s Sahel continues to escalate, uninterrupted by the pandemic. This latest wave of displacement in the region – which includes Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger – has pushed the total number of people forced to flee within their own country in the region to beyond 2.6 million.

Women and children are bearing the brunt of this crisis. Local communities have demonstrated remarkable generosity but are at a breaking point. National capacities are overwhelmed, and there has been limited international support for urgently needed humanitarian and development activities.

The Sahel is also on the front lines of the climate crisis, with temperatures increasing at 1.5 times the global average. This is aggravating conflicts over scarce resources and making life harder for those already forced to flee. The COVID-19 pandemic is also exacerbating the situation, in a region where health structures have been weakened by insecurity.

Number of refugees and other people of concern to UNHCR in the Sahel region

Hover over blue circles for information.

What is UNHCR doing to help?

UNHCR is scaling up its response to this crisis by:

  • providing shelter and core relief items;
  • supporting victims of rampant sexual and gender-based violence;
  • helping people to access education;
  • and working to mitigate the devastating impact of climate change.

Are you a refugee or asylum-seeker? Find information about your rights and available services on our HELP site.

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Are you looking for data on displacement in the Sahel region? Visit the UNHCR data portal for the latest data and statistics on refugees and other displaced persons.

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Operational updates

For information on UNHCR's operational response, budgets and funding, please visit the Sahel situation page on Global Focus.

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