Moumouni Abdoulaye is amongst the 2.7 million people in Africa’s Sahel region forced to flee from home in search for safety. A new contribution from Iceland enables UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, to protect refugees like him and his family.
The situation in the Sahel region in West Africa is currently the fastest growing displacement and protection crisis in the world. In Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso, conflict and violence are escalating with random attacks and atrocities committed by militant groups. Entire villages are set on fire, men are executed, women and girls are raped, and attacks on schools mean children cannot safely continue their education.
More than 2.7 million people in the region have been forced to flee. Many have moved to nearby villages or towns, but continued insecurity has forced them to move further, resulting in increasing numbers of people seeking safety in neighbouring countries. One of these is Moumouni Abdoulaye. As violence came closer to his village, he saw no other option than to flee with his family.
“My neighbours and relatives have been kidnapped, some have been killed, and their property looted. I was forced to leave my hometown, where I was born, to save my family’s lives,” he explains.
Together with his wife and their children, the youngest only a few months old, Moumouni had to walk for days before reaching the border to Niger. The family now lives in the UNHCR-run refugee camp Ouallam in Niger, where they receive food and shelter and – most importantly – protection.
UNHCR continues to provide help, including blankets, natural gas kits for cooking, and access to healthcare for the people fleeing in the region, but needs remain high and resources are sparse. More shelters are required, children are deprived of education, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation further. Support from countries like Iceland helps UNHCR respond to these rapidly increasing needs.
“The situation in the Sahel region requires urgent action and support. Iceland’s contribution is both timely and vital, as it will help us respond to the many needs of both refugees and internally displaced in the region,” says Henrik M. Nordentoft, UNHCR’s Representative to the Nordic and Baltic Countries.
Iceland is a reliable partner to UNHCR, providing consistent funding to UNHCR over the years. Recently, the Government responded to UNHCR’s COVID-19 appeal, and has ensured essential support to UNHCR following the fire in the Moria Registration and Identification Centre on the Greek island of Lesvos.
Iceland’s total contribution to UNHCR in 2020 amounts to USD 1.3 million, whereas in the previous year the country contributed close to USD 250,000 to UNHCR’s efforts for the Venezuela situation, and approximately USD 217,000 to the Syria operation. Iceland’s contributions demonstrate important support and engagement at a time where refugee needs are increasing.