This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Matthew Saltmarsh – to whom the quoted text can be attributed – during today’s press conference at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is alarmed by the recent escalation of violence against civilians by armed groups in Burkina Faso, which has forced thousands to flee, straining humanitarian resources as insecurity continues to plague the central Sahel.
Since June 12, nearly 16,000 Burkinabé, mostly women and children, have arrived in Dori, in eastern Burkina Faso, after fleeing a brutal attack by armed men in Seytenga, a town located 15 kilometers from the border with Niger. More are expected to arrive in the coming days, while some 360 people are believed to have crossed into Niger’s Tillabéri region, adding to the 15,500 Burkinabe nationals already there who have been forced to flee. The authorities and the local population of the city of Tera have welcomed and accommodated the new arrivals even though most Nigerien families are themselves destitute.
Burkina Faso’s displacement crisis is one of the most dynamic in the world, with the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) reaching 1.9 million at the end of April, according to government figures. Other countries in the Sahel – Chad, Mali and Niger – also face a combination of violence, poverty and the effects of climate change. More than 2.5 million people have fled their homes in the Sahel region over the past decade.
The latest attack took place on the night of June 11-12. At least 79 people were killed by gunmen in the assault, with some media reports claiming even more casualties. It is the deadliest incident in Burkina Faso since more than 130 people were killed in a massacre near Solhan in June 2021.
Newcomers to Dori said gunmen went door to door searching for and killing adult men, meaning many witnessed the death of their husbands or fathers. Nearly two-thirds of those who fled Seytenga are under 18.
Many have been accommodated by the host community and by displaced families already residing in Dori, while others have found space in reception and transit centers for refugees. But hundreds are sleeping rough by the side of the road.
Together with the government, UNHCR and its partners are working to strengthen the emergency response. The most urgent needs include shelter and essential items, as well as water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services and psychosocial support. However, non-state armed groups have attacked water supply and infrastructure in the country, including a recent attack on Dori’s main water supply, and WASH needs could increase rapidly.
Regional authorities, with the support of humanitarian organisations, have started relocating families sleeping rough to three existing sites in Dori for refugees and internally displaced people, while additional plots have been identified to accommodate potential future arrivals. UNHCR and its partners are preparing to boost the supply of emergency shelter and essential items, including mattresses, soap and kitchen sets, for more than 1,000 families.
UNHCR is also working to identify new arrivals in need of protection, such as children and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, and to provide them with access to appropriate care.
Despite acute and growing needs, UNHCR’s national budgetary requirements of $109.9 million for 2022 are only 20% funded. The UNHCR calls on the international community for more solidarity and support in Burkina Faso, in particular by funding humanitarian operations to save lives.
With successive waves of displacement, the city of Dori has quintupled and is now home to nearly 76,000 displaced Burkinabés, as well as some 20,000 refugees from Mali. UNHCR worked with the government on the inclusion of refugees in national services such as education and health care. However, competition for resources such as water and land for grazing and farming, together with rising inflation, pressure on basic services and shortages of essential supplies like fuel, are putting all test the peaceful coexistence between different communities.
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