0349 GMT May 27, 2022
In Burkina Faso, northern Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Niger and northeastern Nigeria, five million more people than last year are in need of aid, according to a statement released on Tuesday, AFP reported.
In recent years, large parts of the western Sahel, a semiarid region directly south of the Sahara Desert, have been plagued by violence that involves multiple armed groups, military campaigns by national armies and international partners as well as local militias.
“The conflict in Sahel is growing wider, more complex and involving more armed actors,” said Xavier Creach, Sahel coordinator for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and deputy director for West and Central Africa, according to Al Jazeera.
“Civilians end up paying the price as they face an increasing number of deadly attacks, gender-based violence, extortion or intimidation, and are forced to flee, often multiple times.”
The region was plunged into conflict in 2012 when armed groups overtook a rebellion by ethnic Tuareg separatists in northern Mali. France led an intervention the next year to beat back the armed groups, which scattered and regrouped before taking their campaign into central Mali in 2015 and then into neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso.
Chad and the Sahel regions in the north of Cameroon and Nigeria are also gripped by conflicts with armed groups.
A record 29 million people across the region need humanitarian assistance, the UN said in a statement, which was also signed by NGOs Norwegian Refugee Council and Plan International.
Some 5.3 million people have been displaced by Sahel-wide insecurity, it added, noting that thousands of schools had closed and 1.6 million children are projected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition.
"We’ve seen hunger jump by almost a third in West Africa – to the highest levels in the best part of a decade," the statement quoted Chris Nikoi, a regional director of UN's World Food Programme, as saying.
He added that soaring food prices linked to the violence is driving hunger and malnutrition.
Calling the crisis "unparalleled," the statement urged more funding to address the humanitarian situation.
"Behind the numbers and data, there are stories of human suffering," the statement quoted Julie Belanger, a regional director the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, as saying.
"Without sufficient resources, the crisis will further escalate, eroding communities’ resilience and putting millions more children, women and men at risk," she added.