In a region with one of the world’s fastest growing displacement crises, Danish emergency funding helps UNHCR to continue to provide life-saving protection and support.
Malian refugees in Goudoubo camp, Burkina Faso, carry home new dignity kits, received at a distribution point in the camp. © UNHCR/Sylvain Cherkaoui
For years, Sambo Maiga persisted with his farming as he witnessed how the seasonal rains became increasingly unpredictable, yields became smaller each year and the grasses where his sheep and goats grazed dried up. But it was after a group of armed men entered his village of Taouremba in northern Burkina Faso that Maiga and his family concluded that they had little choice but to flee.
The family fled across the country in search of safety, moving from town to town, until they reached the city of Kongoussi further south. Sambo Maiga and his family worried about what the future would hold.
“The land isn’t fertile like it was before,” Maiga explained. “I can see my family suffering, but I can’t do anything for them.” In Kongoussi, there is no land for the family to farm and out of the 35 sheep and goats the family owned, only two have survived the lack of food.
Maiga and his family are among the hundreds of thousands of people living the consequences of one of the world’s fastest growing displacement crises. The Sahel region, stretching across the southern edge of the Sahara and encompassing Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad in Western Africa, has in recent years seen an upsurge in violence and conflict, exacerbated by dwindling natural resources.
The Sahel is severely impacted by the climate crisis, with temperatures in the region rising 1.5 times faster than the global average. As seasonal rains become shorter and less predictable, the arid stretch of land becomes increasingly prone to droughts – and, with it, crop failure and destroyed livelihoods.
This only adds to the volatile situation in the region, which has also deteriorated further due to increasing attacks by jihadist groups, extreme poverty, and the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Burkina Faso alone, more than 1.4 million people have been internally displaced. Across the region, over 4.2 million people are estimated to have been forced to flee – and for many, fleeing is not something they have experienced once, but time and time again.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has scaled up its efforts across the Sahel region to respond to the growing needs of the displaced individuals and families – and a recent allocation of DKK 15 million (USD 2.2 million) from Denmark’s Emergency Reserve Fund, will help strengthen UNHCR’s response further.
UNHCR is providing emergency shelters and is supporting displaced families to reinforce their temporary shelters with sandbags and plastic sheeting. During the first ten months of 2021, UNHCR distributed nearly 7,000 shelters, benefitting more than 48,000 refugees, internally displaced people and vulnerable families from the host community.
Additionally, UNHCR is helping families with basic necessities such as blankets, cooking utensils and hygiene kits – and responding to the severe consequences of COVID-10 on refugees’ livelihoods, UNHCR is also providing cash assistance to families. This help refugees meet their basic needs in a dignified manner, while also supporting the development of micro enterprises and the purchasing of livestock.
“The convergence of crises in the Sahel – armed conflict, extreme poverty, food insecurity and the climate crisis – has led to the region becoming home to one of the world’s fastest growing displacement crises. Denmark’s contribution to UNHCR’s efforts in the Sahel helps us to further scale up our critical response and deliver live-saving protection and support to the thousands of individuals and families forced to flee,” said Henrik M. Nordentoft, UNHCR’s Representative to the Nordic and Baltic Countries.
The help from UNHCR has ensured better shelter for Sambo Maiga and his family.
When they arrived in Kongoussi, they first lived in a tent that was soon washed away by torrential rains, together with the homes of other displaced families – but now, they have moved into a sturdier plastic shelter, which protects them from harsh weather conditions. Outside the shelter, Maiga has been able to set up a small stand where he sells biscuits and cigarettes to support his family.
However, for him and so many others, the future remains uncertain.
Denmark as a donor
Within its overall funding, Denmark annually contributes with an Emergency Reserve Fund of DKK 50 million (around USD 7.4 million) at the start of each year, which UNHCR can allocate towards the most urgent needs. The flexibility of the fund allows UNHCR to respond to emergencies, which saves lives and assists displaced people with critical protection needs and acute basic necessities. This year, funding from the Danish Emergency Reserve Fund has been allocated to UNHR’s operations in the Sahel region, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Central African Republic.
Thus far in 2021, Denmark has provided UNHCR with over USD 101 million, of which a significant part is provided as flexible funding, allowing UNHCR to prioritize its response and support protracted, forgotten, and underfunded situations. Denmark is one of UNHCR’s most important financial donors.