The U.N. refugee agency on Friday called for concerted action to help record-breaking numbers of people forced to flee increasingly violent armed attacks in Burkina Faso.
The attacks on civilians and security forces by jihadist groups are increasing in frequency and in the level of violence. Over the past two years, more than 1.3 million people, or 6 percent of the population, have become displaced inside the country.
UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch said the speed of internal displacement was showing no sign of slowing as armed attacks continue unabated.
"In the first half of this year," Baloch said, "some 240,000 people fled their homes to other parts of Burkina Faso, a sharp increase compared to nearly 100,000 registered during the last six months of the year 2020.”
The UNHCR said there had been an equally alarming increase in the number of people fleeing across Burkina Faso’s borders in search of asylum. It said more than 17,500 people had fled to neighboring countries in the first half of this year.
Most have fled to Mali and Niger. However, the agency noted some refugees had fled to Mauritania and Chad, and that more risked spilling over to Benin, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Togo, widening the impact of the regional displacement crisis.
Peace in Central Sahel
Baloch said a mechanism must be found to bring peace and security to Burkina Faso and to the neighboring Central Sahel countries.
“These countries, which are struggling, they may need support from other countries in the region or beyond," Baloch said. "But what is also important is trying to take care of this displaced population. … So the call is for security in the region but also for resources, which help us to take care of this desperate population.”
The UNHCR said more money was required to meet the growing humanitarian needs in the region. It appealed for greater support from the international community. It noted that only half of the $259.3 million it requested had been received.