Sahel situation

The central Sahel region, at the heart of mixed movements, is facing a severe humanitarian and protection crisis that has already forced over 4 million people from their homes.

 

Situation plans:
2023
Situation reports:
2022 | 2021 | Previous years
Goussam Koko is a Nigerian refugee working in a collective vegetable garden in Sayam Forage camp, Niger. So far, 125 refugees, returned and host families have been trained and practice market gardening and fish farming activities.  © UNHCR/Colin Delfosse
Goussam Koko is a Nigerian refugee working in a collective vegetable garden in Sayam Forage camp, Niger. So far, 125 refugees, returned and host families have been trained and practice market gardening and fish farming activities. © UNHCR/Colin Delfosse
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2024 population planning figures

  • Refugees and asylum-seekers (Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger): 550,000 
  • IDPs (Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger): 3,859,400 

  • Refugee and IDP returnees (Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger): 110,800 

  • Others of concern (Niger): 42,000 


For the reported figures consult the dedicated page on UNHCR operational data portal.
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2024 situation overview

The central Sahel region, encompassing Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, is facing a severe humanitarian and protection crisis that has already driven millions of people from their homes. The political, security and economic situation, characterized by repeated coups d'état, an intense and expanding armed conflict and extreme poverty, is expected to deteriorate further in 2024. Human rights violations are likely to increase as the conflict escalates. More displaced people are likely to be beyond the reach of assistance, leading to further displacement into urban areas across the region. Additionally, as national capacities become increasingly strained, displaced people will be forced to flee into neighbouring countries. Many will continue to move onward within the region and towards coastal countries and even further into mixed movements. Movements beyond the region are expected to increase, including to Europe. Burkina Faso and Mali already featured in the top nationalities among sea arrivals to Italy in the first half of 2023.  

UNHCR will stay and deliver a protection-centred response. This will include ensuring access to territory, registration, access to asylum, 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. Among its targets for the situation, UNHCR will work to ensure that 60% of IDPs in Burkina Faso live in habitable and affordable housing, while in Niger 100% of refugees and asylum-seekers will be registered, and 70% of refugees, asylum-seekers and IDPs will have access to available gender-based violence services.  

As lead of the Protection Cluster, Shelter and Core Relief Items Cluster, and Camp Coordination and Camp Management Cluster, UNHCR will ensure a predictable and efficient response to the needs of internally displaced persons. 

 

In Burkina Faso, nearly two million internally displaced people have left their villages in the north-east since 2018 due to the crisis in the Sahel. To address the housing situation needs of the internally displaced, UNHCR is assisting in the construction of eco-friendly homes, replacing tents. © UNHCR/Anne Mimault
In Burkina Faso, nearly two million internally displaced people have left their villages in the north-east since 2018 due to the crisis in the Sahel. To address the housing situation needs of the internally displaced, UNHCR is assisting in the construction of eco-friendly homes, replacing tents. © UNHCR/Anne Mimault

In this challenging environment, UNHCR will adapt its response to meet the changing needs of these populations in a context of insecurity and constrained access. UNHCR will intervene at the community level to try and achieve more localization of the humanitarian response, while strengthening partnerships with national and local humanitarian actors, as well as with civil society organizations, who are often the first responders.  

In Mali, the focus will be on empowering communities to both mitigate protection risks and foster peaceful coexistence. In order to do so, community-based approaches will be applied to identify protection risks and potential solutions; infrastructure shared by displaced and host populations will be supported; and income-generating activities benefiting both communities will be carried out.

In addition, since people travel through the region in mixed movements of migrants and refugees, UNHCR will aim to support protection along the routes by investing in community-based identification and referral mechanisms and the dissemination of information to people on the move about the protection risks they may encounter, the local services that are available, and the alternatives to risky onward movement. 

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UNHCR will work closely with national and local authorities to improve the protection environment by technically supporting national asylum authorities to enhance the quality and efficiency of registration and status determination procedures, including in the context of mixed movements, as well as for individual case processing.  

UNHCR will also work for durable solutions, including by advocating for forcibly displaced people to be included in national and local integration strategies, supporting the enhancement of national systems, and seizing opportunities for voluntary repatriation in safety and dignity. Strategic partnerships with development actors will be crucial in ensuring the sustainability of solutions, through continued advocacy for inclusion of forcibly displaced people in national development plans, and welfare systems. Resettlement and complementary pathways will be sought as solutions for the most vulnerable refugees in the Sahel region.   

 

The effects of climate change heavily impact the Sahel by intensifying tensions over resources, exacerbating conflicts and displacement. As such, climate action will take a central role in UNHCR's interventions.

UNHCR will integrate climate-related risks in risk and impact analysis and assessments conducted at the onset of and throughout emergencies.  

Environmental sustainability will be prioritized across all sectors including site planning, shelter, water, sanitation, hygiene and livelihoods. Possibilities to use renewable energy, energy-efficient technologies, and energy conservation options will also be explored. In Burkina Faso, climate-smart agriculture, such as drip irrigation for farming, will be promoted to use the limited water available for a higher number of crops, including off-season crops.

Communities will also be trained in composting waste food and other organics to reduce or eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers and making gardens more resilient to the effects of climate change. 

 

Issufu Salah, 62, fled conflict in the Menaka region of Mali in 2012 and found refuge with his family in Abala, Niger. He has become an advocate within the refugee community, emphasizing the importance of obtaining birth certificates for children. © UNHCR/Antonia Vadala
Issufu Salah, 62, fled conflict in the Menaka region of Mali in 2012 and found refuge with his family in Abala, Niger. He has become an advocate within the refugee community, emphasizing the importance of obtaining birth certificates for children. © UNHCR/Antonia Vadala
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Countries affected