This post originally appeared on the SahelNow blog.
If you drive along the roads of northern Burkina Faso, as my colleagues and I have these past two weeks, you won’t always see the usual signs of human activity. While the population here is growing rapidly, the Sahel remains a sparsely populated region, and desiccated savannah dominates the landscape – stretching for miles into the distance.
Nila is tired. Two weeks ago, she arrived in Yida camp, South Sudan, with her three young children in search of safety and food. Like the many people that fled before her, Nila and her family escaped from their homes in the middle of the night after relentless bombings by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) made it impossible for them to harvest their crops. As they hid in the caves away from the bombs, hunger set in, and finally they were forced to flee.
Africa’s Sahel region is home to some of the world’s poorest and least developed countries. But in recent years, more erratic weather coupled with political unrest, has had grave impacts on Sahelian populations. Instability brought on by conflict and growing food insecurity has forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes. And these impacts are only likely to increase in the decades to come as millions of vulnerable, agriculture-dependent families across the region face increased climate variability.
The French military intervention in Mali is just a few days old, and there is plenty of uncertainty about the operation’s strategy and potential outcomes. But one thing is clear: as this campaign escalates, more civilians are being forced to flee their homes – exacerbating a humanitarian crisis that has plagued Mali for more than a year. Governments and aid agencies in the region must be prepared for the worst and take steps immediately to assist this new wave of displaced Malians....
“My son heard my husband knocking some nails into the wall and he actually thought this noise was me killing his father,” a Kuwaiti woman, whom I will call Mona, told me. I am currently in Kuwait with my Refugees International colleague, assessing the needs of this country’s stateless population.
About a year and a half ago, I was interviewing peacekeepers on a tiny temporary base in eastern DR Congo. I met a man in his 80s who had walked five hours on an injured leg to deliver a letter. It was a message for the peacekeepers. And that message was: “Please, don’t leave.”
This base was only accessible by foot or helicopter. There were just 50 soldiers and so they had a really limited reach. But
While conducting a humanitarian assessment with Refugees International, I spoke with an eighty-year-old woman who had recently fled violent reprisal killings near the village of Lukweti in Masisi territory. In December of last year, when a local self-defense force, defeated a Congolese army unit primarily made up of former members of the Laurent Nkunda’s CNDP rebel group, the soldiers turned on the local population.
This week, the governments of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) signed a Tripartite Agreement, setting the stage to help more than 50,000 Congolese refugees return home after living in camps in Rwanda.