In West and Central Africa, the needs of people displaced by protracted conflicts are growing faster than the humanitarian response can expand. The regional budget for 2023, based on the needs of 12.7 million people, already looked insufficient by late October 2022, repeating a pattern seen in the past three years. The war in Ukraine and resulting worldwide inflation have boosted prices for food, gasoline and other commodities, increasing the burden on displaced and host populations. Humanitarian conditions will continue deteriorating unless peace efforts can contain the region’s conflicts, which mainly stem from political instability, intercommunal competition for limited resources and tensions due to the effects of climate change. In this context, UNHCR’s efforts in 2023 will focus on better protection monitoring and responding to arising emergencies while simultaneously seeking long-term solutions in partnership with development actors.
UNHCR will bolster its emergency response capacity to reach forcibly displaced people more quickly across the region, particularly in the central Sahel where needs are projected to increase sharply as violence spreads. Moreover, the spillover of the Sahel conflict is expected to intensify pressure on the coastal countries. In Chad, food insecurity threatens the lives of displaced people and host communities, necessitating urgent efforts to prevent a new humanitarian catastrophe.
In the Sahel, enhanced protection monitoring through Project 21 will inform protection programming and life-saving assistance. UNHCR will work with governments to strengthen asylum, resolve statelessness and reinforce identification and referral mechanisms, providing meaningful alternatives to risky onward movements. Particular attention will be paid to gender-based violence prevention and response. UNHCR will use digital and communication tools to foster dialogue and accountability to affected communities. With nearly 400,000 out-of-school refugee children in the region, access to education will remain a priority.
Almost two thirds of people forced to flee across the region engage in agriculture, leaving them particularly vulnerable to climate change, natural disasters and economic conditions. From strategic use of data and cash to targeted advocacy and partnerships, UNHCR will use every tool at its disposal to increase the access of forcibly displaced people to economic opportunities, and their self-reliance.
Considering the prolonged nature of asylum throughout the region, the search for solutions will remain a top priority in 2023. The implementation of a solutions strategy for Ivorian refugees in 2022 was a milestone, reducing UNHCR’s operational footprint in Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia and other countries that previously hosted Ivorian refugees, allowing it to redirect resources to the most vulnerable people and new emergencies, while working with development actors on long-term investments that unlock sustainable solutions.
To find solutions for people forcibly displaced by the crisis in the Central African Republic, UNHCR will mobilize political, technical and financial support through a Regional Solutions Support Platform for Central Africans, framed around the recommendations of the 2022 Yaoundé Declaration. UNHCR is also working with a broad range of stakeholders towards solutions for displaced people in the Lake Chad Basin, while continuing to promote tripartite frameworks for the voluntary return of refugees with governments. Resettlement and other complementary pathways will be crucial for the region’s most vulnerable refugees, UNHCR will work with the Lake Chad Basin Commission and the Secretariat of the Regional Strategy for the Stabilization, Recovery and Resilience.
UNHCR will work with governments to improve the protection environment and ensure forcibly displaced and stateless people’s inclusion in national systems, while enhancing collaboration with development actors to address the root causes of displacement and foster peaceful coexistence. In the final years of the #IBelong campaign, UNHCR will focus on supporting States to implement their most impactful pledges to resolve statelessness. UNHCR will coordinate with regional institutions and processes, strengthening collaboration with UN inter-agency platforms and regional economic commissions, including ECOWAS and ECCAS, as well as whole-of-UN processes such as the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel and the Regional Collaborative Platform.
2023 population planning figures:
Refugees and asylum-seekers: 519,000
IDPs: 3.74 million
Refugee and IDP returnees: 385,000
Others of concern to UNHCR: 19,600
2023 situation overview
Forced displacement in the central Sahel reached new heights in 2022, with over 2.9 million refugees and internally displaced people across Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger and an emerging trend of Burkinabe seeking asylum southward and northward, including in North Africa and Europe. Violence and conflict spilled over to coastal countries (Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo), with several thousand new arrivals recorded. Given the complex interplay between conflict, climate change, food insecurity and widespread lack of socioeconomic opportunities, high levels of forced displacement are expected to continue into 2023.
In this volatile context, UNHCR will endeavour to stay and deliver a protection-centred emergency response. To better understand the risks and needs of people forced to flee and their host communities, UNHCR will seek to enhance protection monitoring through the regional inter-agency Project 21. Registration, gender-based violence prevention, risk mitigation and response, child protection, education, civil documentation (including for those at risk of statelessness) and the provision of shelter and core relief items will be integral to the emergency response. Along mixed movement routes, reinforcing community-based identification and referral mechanisms and providing young people with opportunities will be essential to offer alternatives to risky onward movements. In the coastal countries, UNHCR will increase its emergency preparedness by implementing or updating contingency plans, building capacity and increasing coordination with governments and partners through a regional situational emergency training.
UNHCR will continue to work with governments to improve the protection environment and find durable solutions, including achieving the goals of the #IBelong Campaign to end statelessness by 2024. All opportunities for solutions will be explored, including local integration, voluntary repatriation where the conditions for a safe and dignified return are met, and resettlement for the most vulnerable refugees. Partnering with local and national responders, UNHCR will invest in existing community-based structures and seek to mainstream climate action as part of its response. Strategic partnerships with development actors will focus on initiatives that will help to unlock such solutions for the displaced. At the regional level, UNHCR will continue its engagement with UN-wide coordination mechanisms such as the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel and will advance opportunities for the Sahel as part of the Regional Collaborative Platform.
Central African Republic Situation
2023 population planning figures
Refugees and asylum-seekers: 624,000
Refugee and IDP returnees: 236,500
2023 situation overview
One in every four Central Africans was displaced in 2022, a figure that testifies to the severity of the protracted forced displacement crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR). Yet 2022 was marked by improvements in the security environment in some localities, allowing voluntary repatriations to safe areas to resume in May. At the same time, new difficulties such as global inflationary pressures and a fuel crisis linked to the war in Ukraine are affecting refugees, internally displaced people and host communities alike, exacerbating protection risks, reducing humanitarian access and forcing voluntary repatriation to come to a temporary halt.
As the situation remains fragile, UNHCR’s response in 2023 will be key to ensuring that hard-won progress is not lost. Protection will remain at the heart of UNHCR’s response on the ground, with particular attention paid to the prevention of gender-based violence risk mitigation and response, and accountability to affected populations. UNHCR will continue to deliver protection, emergency shelter and core relief items to internally displaced people in line with its IASC mandate.
Building on the Yaoundé Declaration signed in April 2022, UNHCR will operationalize a Solutions Support Platform bringing together the seven governments and relevant stakeholders affected by displacement from the CAR. This platform will seek to mobilize all the necessary support and resources to secure durable solutions both in the countries of asylum and in the CAR, from effective refugee inclusion to voluntary returns.