GENEVA / SAHEL EMERGENCY

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21-Feb-2020 00:02:24
Deadly attacks on villages in Burkina Faso have forced 150,000 people to flee in the last three weeks alone, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Friday, warning of a displacement emergency in the wider Sahel region. UNTV CH

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STORY: GENEVA / SAHEL EMERGENCY
TRT: 2:24
SOURCE: UNTV CH
RESTRICTIONS: NONE
LANGUAGE: ENGLISH / NATS

DATELINE: 21 FEBRUARY 2020, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

SHOTLIST:

1. Wide shot, exterior, flag alley, Palais des Nations, United Nations Geneva.
2. Wide shot, Press briefing room.
3. SOUNDBITE (English) Andrej Mahecic, spokesperson, UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR):
“In Burkina Faso, the latest attacks by militants on civilians and local authorities have been forcing a daily average of more than 4,000 people to flee their homes in search for safety since 1 January of this year. So far, 765,000 people have already been displaced, of whom more than 700,000 in the past 12 months.”
4. Med shot, journalists, podium in background
5. SOUNDBITE (English) Andrej Mahecic, spokesperson, UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR):
“People fleeing the violence report attacks on their villages by militant groups, killing, raping, and pillaging. Terrified of these attacks, residents have left everything behind to find safety.”
6. Close up, journalists
7. SOUNDBITE (English) Andrej Mahecic, spokesperson, UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR):
“Further north, in Mali, following the latest attacks on the village of Ogossagou on 14 February, where 30 inhabitants were killed, the population is scared and eager to flee to a safer place.”
8. Wide shot, podium and speakers
9. SOUNDBITE (English) Andrej Mahecic, spokesperson, UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR):
“In Niger, the same wave of violence has displaced around 11,000 people who found refuge in nearby towns of Banibangu and Ouallam, where assistance is being provided.”
10. Wide shot, journalists
11. SOUNDBITE (English) Andrej Mahecic, spokesperson, UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR):
“Safety is needed for these people. In some of these situations, people are so afraid of the insecurity and violence around them that even though they are under attack or fearing of an attack, they do not dare to move.”
12. Med shot, journalists conferring
13. SOUNDBITE (English) Andrej Mahecic, spokesperson, UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR):
“What we know right now, is that the violence and the frequency of these attacks have increased, the intensity has increased, and we know that this is the key reason behind this massive displacement.”
14. Med shot, journalist
15. SOUNDBITE (English) Andrej Mahecic, spokesperson, UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR):
“There is an emergency in the Sahel region that urgently needs addressing. This is a crisis that is poorly-known and poorly-understood.”
16. Med shot, journalist
17. Med shot, journalists
18. Wide shot, journalists

STORYLINE:

Deadly attacks on villages in Burkina Faso have forced 150,000 people to flee in the last three weeks alone, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Friday, warning of a displacement emergency in the wider Sahel region.

Amid a devastating surge in terrorist attacks against civilian and military targets which the UN says have risen five-fold in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger since 2016, UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic said that survivors “everywhere” needed safety, shelter, food and water.

Help is urgently needed in northern Burkina Faso, where displaced families are staying with host communities who have little in the way of resources themselves.

The new arrivals are “occupying whatever space is available”, the UNHCR official explained.

“In Burkina Faso, the latest attacks by militants on civilians and local authorities have been forcing a daily average of more than 4,000 people to flee their homes in search for safety since 1 January of this year,” Mahecic said. “So far, 765,000 people have already been displaced, of whom more than 700,000 in the past 12 months.”

Those forced to flee “report attacks on their villages by militant groups, killing, raping, and pillaging,” the UNHCR official added. “Terrified of these attacks, residents have left everything behind to find safety.”
A similar pattern of violence has driven people from their homes in Mali and Niger, UNHCR also warned, adding to the longstanding insecurity crisis further afield in the Lake Chad region, where UN humanitarians OCHA report 2.3 million people displaced.

“In Niger, the same wave of violence has displaced around 11,000 people who found refuge in nearby towns of Banibangu and Ouallam, where assistance is being provided,” Mahecic said.

“Further north, in Mali, following the latest attacks on the village of Ogossagou on 14 February, where 30 inhabitants were killed, the population is scared and eager to flee to a safer place…Safety is needed for these people. In some of these situations, people are so afraid of the insecurity and violence around them that even though they are under attack or fearing of an attack, they do not dare to move.”

The Sahel region encompasses an area south of the Sahara Desert and spans across parts of 10 countries: from Senegal in the west all the way to Eritrea, in East Africa.

Violence there intensified after the 2011 revolution in Libya, and an uprising in Mali a year later. As a result, terrorist groups, organized criminal groups and others took advantage of weak governance and ethnic tensions to move across borders and terrorize local populations.

According to the UN Special Representative and Head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), violence there has claimed more than 4,000 lives in 2019, compared to 770 in 2013.

In a briefing to the Security Council last month, Mohamed Ibn Chambas described “relentless attacks” that had shaken public confidence in the authorities.

“Most significantly,” he said, “the geographic focus of terrorist attacks has shifted eastwards from Mali to Burkina Faso and is increasingly threatening West African coastal States.”

Chambas also explained how the attacks were often perpetrated by extremists looking to engage in illicit activities that included capturing weapons and illegal artisanal mining.

Terrorism, organized crime and intercommunal violence were often intertwined, the UN Special Representative said, especially in peripheral areas where the State’s presence is weak.

“In those places, extremists provide safety and protection to populations, as well as social services in exchanged for loyalty”, Chambas said, echoing earlier comments by UN Secretary-General António Guterres who insisted that for these reasons, “counter-terrorism responses must focus on gaining the trust and support of local populations”.

Highlighting “severe challenges” in accessing the needs of victims of violence throughout the Sahel region, Mahecic explained that safety, shelter food and water were a priority.

Clothing and other basic items, including dignity kits for women and girls, were also urgently needed, he said, along with counselling for survivors of atrocities.

“What we know right now, is that the violence and the frequency of these attacks have increased, the intensity has increased, and we know that this is the key reason behind this massive displacement,” he said.

UNHCR and its partners are already stepping up their response, including by strengthening health and education facilities for communities, Mahecic added, before appealing for safe access for humanitarians to deliver assistance.
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