GENEVA - UNHCR, the U.N. Refugee Agency is calling for international action to end the armed conflict in Africa's Central Sahel region, a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced more than 2.5 million over the last decade.
Data from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project finds violence in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger caused more than 4,660 deaths in the first six months of 2020.
Statistics from other international monitoring groups and U.N. agencies show internal displacement in Africa's Central Sahel region has increased tenfold since 2013, from 217,000 to 2.1 million by late 2021.
FILE - A detachment of anti-jihadist Special Forces elements patrol on Nov. 6, 2021, in the Tillaberi region (western Niger), the scene of deadly actions by suspected jihadists since the beginning of the year.
U.N. refugee spokesman Boris Cheshirkov says displacement continues to grow across the Sahel, as civilians flee violent attacks.
"Armed groups reportedly carried out over 800 deadly attacks last year. Such violence uprooted 450,000 people within their countries and forced a further 36,000 to flee to a neighboring country as a refugee,' he said. 'Women and children are often the worst-affected and disproportionately exposed to extreme vulnerability and the threat of gender-based violence."
Cheshirkov says conditions across the region continue to deteriorate. He says host communities and government authorities are buckling under increasing pressure despite their commitment to help the displaced.
He says humanitarian agencies are finding it increasingly difficult and dangerous to deliver assistance and protection. He says humanitarians risk road attack, ambush, and car jacking.
"What we have been calling for and we repeat this call again now is for a unified, a strategic, a substantial intervention in the Sahel that will make sure that international efforts are supporting the governments and host communities ... and a security response cannot prevail on its own. It needs to be hand-in-glove with humanitarian and development action," he said.
Cheshirkov says the UNHCR is leading an effort by United Nations and private agencies to provide shelter and protection services, including combating gender-based violence.