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2015 UNHCR subregional operations profile - West Africa

| Overview |

UNHCR 2015 West Africa subregional operations map

Parts of West Africa remain affected by insecurity, including food insecurity in the Sahel and political crises. Elections are scheduled for 2015 in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, and Togo. UNHCR has developed several contingency plans with countries likely to see an influx of people if there are any instances of post-election upheaval. At regional level, and within the framework of emergency preparedness and emergency response, UNHCR has also developed a task force to monitor and report threat levels.

In Mali in 2014, presidential elections and some improvements in the security situation in the north, led more Malian refugees to request assistance to return home. However, as the security situation in some areas of origin remains unpredictable, most refugees have not yet returned. UNHCR will, in consultation with host countries and Malian authorities, provide refugees with information both on the situation in areas of origin and on ongoing activities aimed at improving conditions. It will also work with partners to ensure that those who have returned are integrated into support structures. While more than 12,900 refugees have been assisted to return in 2014, it is expected that another 42,000 will return home in 2015, along with an estimated 74,000 internally displaced people (IDPs).

Violent clashes between government forces and armed groups in the north of Nigeria have triggered large waves of displacement. More than half a million civilians have been internally displaced, while others have sought safety in neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger. The humanitarian crisis resulting from this internal conflict shows no sign of abating in 2015. UNHCR and partner agencies have stepped up responses to the Nigeria refugee crises in the neighbouring countries already in 2014, which need to be sustained into 2015. UNHCR has also taken measures to strengthen its collaboration in the protection of IDPs inside Nigeria, under the leadership of the recently appointed Humanitarian Coordinator.

Beyond political and security challenges, food insecurity continues in the Sahel. UNHCR will support refugees and IDPs by providing more agricultural tools while working to find alternative solutions for refugees in protracted situations.

Meanwhile, the spread of Ebola in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone, has already killed 3,000 people. The outbreak is having dramatic consequences on social and economic activities in West Africa, and some borders have been closed. Many farmers no longer tend their fields in affected areas, where prices have soared. Furthermore, Ebola is affecting UNHCR's refugee operations, including the suspension since July 2014 of Ivorian refugee returns from Liberia. The organization has maintained its presence in the three most affected countries but has suspended non-essential missions within and to affected countries. Quarantine measures, particularly in Liberia and Guinea, prevent refugees from leaving the camps in search of livelihood activities to complement the limited food basket, making them more dependent on assistance. In this situation, adequate food supplies will be critical for preventing and combating malnutrition.

UNHCR continues to implement its regional solutions strategies for protracted refugee populations, in close collaboration with host governments. It will, as a sub-regional priority, advocate an alternative residence status for long-staying refugees.

| Response and implementation |

UNHCR's operations in Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia, Mali and Niger are covered in separate chapters.

Regionally, UNHCR will continue to oversee and to provide protection guidance and programme support to nine West African operations that host more than 150,000 refugees through its Regional Office for West Africa. It will ensure the coordination, policy, oversight and technical support for operations in Benin, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. In addition, UNHCR's Regional Representation for West Africa will coordinate the regional response to emergencies in Mali and Nigeria. The Regional Representation will also continue to assume a wider coordination function for Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia, Mali and Niger.

In Benin, 219 refugees, mainly from the Central African Republic and Côte d'Ivoire, will require UNHCR's protection in 2015. The Government's commitment to finding a definitive solution to long-staying refugees means the number of refugees in Benin has drastically decreased. Since January 2013, a strategy focusing on local integration was developed and implemented with UNHCR support. Refugees wishing to stay in the country were granted 10 years legal residence and issued with documentation that allowed them to integrate locally.

In Burkina Faso, UNHCR will continue to provide protection and multi-sectoral assistance to, and promote the self-reliance of, refugees. Conditions permitting, the organization will support Malian refugees in Burkina Faso willing to return home and use resettlement as both a protection tool and durable solution for the most vulnerable. UNHCR will ensure delivery of health services in refugee camps, strengthening reproductive health, HIV and AIDS services, and health referrals. The organization aims to ensure that at least 5,000 refugee children are enrolled in quality primary education in 2015. The construction of durable transitional shelters and the distribution of shelter materials and tool kits will also be a UNHCR priority in Burkina Faso.

In the Gambia, most refugees are Senegalese. More than 8,000 of them live in the rural areas in more than 50 host villages in Foni, along the Gambia's border with Senegal. Some 1,200 refugees from Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia, Senegal and Sierra Leone live in the Greater Banjul area. In 2015, as part of its comprehensive solutions strategy for Senegalese refugees, UNHCR will look to naturalization and alternative status for the refugees, while continuing to explore practical ways of empowering the refugees through the promotion of self-reliance activities.

In 2015, UNHCR will protect and assist more than 14,000 refugees, mainly Ivorians and Togolese, in Ghana. UNHCR will promote self-reliance through skills training and income-generation activities to help transition families from assistance to self-sustenance. The joint UN strategy - coordinated between UNHCR and WFP - envisages a phase-out of food assistance for the in-camp population by March 2015. An estimated 2,000 asylum-seekers are expected in Ghana in 2015, mainly from Côte d'Ivoire. Around 2,000 Togolese refugees opted to locally integrate in Ghana and negotiations are ongoing to provide them with legal residence.

In Guinea, an estimated 6,600 refugees will continue to need international protection and UNHCR will support the repatriation of Ivorians wishing to do so.

Guinea-Bissau will continue hosting more than 8,400 Senegalese refugees living in rural areas. Negotiations with the Government are ongoing to facilitate local integration through an alternative legal status or naturalization. UNHCR, with government support, has developed a road map to facilitate the implementation of a comprehensive solutions strategy for Senegalese refugees in the country.

In 2015, the Office in Nigeria will be responding to the protection needs of some 1,700 recognized refugees. UNHCR will in addition pursue the repatriation of the Cameroonian refugees. It will strengthen its presence and capacity in the country and will monitor protection needs, in collaboration with the National Human Rights Commission, national NGOs and civil society. UNHCR will also build the capacity of state agencies by promoting training on basic principles of protection and camp coordination and camp management. The organization, together with partners, will support the authorities in the implementation of the Kampala Convention, strengthening their capacity in protection monitoring and response.

At least 15,800 refugees live in Senegal, more than 13,500 of whom are Mauritanian. Refugee identity cards issued by the Government of Senegal allow them to enjoy social and economic rights. In the absence of repatriation opportunities, UNHCR will continue to strengthen the local integration process in 2015.

Sierra Leone hosts approximately 690 Liberian refugees. A group of around 270 Liberians, whose nationality was not confirmed during the cessation process, will remain of concern to UNHCR in 2015 and alternative solutions for them will be explored.

Togo hosts more than 2,800 refugees and 420 asylum-seekers, who live in urban areas. Among the urban refugee population, 85 per cent are Ivorians and most live in Avépozo refugee camp. Many Ivorian refugees are expected to repatriate in 2015. Ghanaians who arrived after 2010 will continue receiving protection and assistance and UNHCR will pursue a durable solutions strategy for long-stay Ghanaian refugees in northern Togo.

| Financial information |

While the revised 2014 financial requirements for West Africa amounted to USD 265.1 million, the subregional budget for 2015 is set at USD 233.5 million. Since 2011, UNHCR has observed an increase in population movements in this subregion that has been affected by several emergencies.

UNHCR 2015 budgets for West Africa (USD)
Operation 2014
Revised budget
(as of 30 June 2014)
Total 265,071,891 198,705,603 5,547,898 18,671,616 10,533,984 233,459,101
1. Includes activities in Benin, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Togo.
Burkina Faso 25,708,635 20,167,209 0 0 0 20,167,209
Côte d'Ivoire 27,337,841 14,533,233 3,599,304 7,917,216 0 26,049,754
Ghana 11,137,473 10,693,861 0 0 0 10,693,861
Guinea 4,874,471 5,378,500 0 0 0 5,378,500
Liberia 35,328,663 25,278,092 0 0 0 25,278,092
Mali 69,589,103 48,598,107 0 10,754,399 8,058,010 67,410,517
Niger 41,657,211 31,526,607 0 0 0 31,526,607
Senegal Regional Office[1] 49,438,494 42,529,993 1,948,594 0 2,475,974 46,954,560

Source: UNHCR Global Appeal 2015 Update



Statistical Snapshot*
* As at June 2015
  1. Country or territory of asylum or residence.
  2. Persons recognized as refugees under the 1951 UN Convention/1967 Protocol, the 1969 OAU Convention, in accordance with the UNHCR Statute, persons granted a complementary form of protection and those granted temporary protection. It also includes persons in a refugee-like situation for whom refugee status has, for practical or other reasons, not been ascertained. In the absence of Government figures, UNHCR has estimated the refugee population in many industrialized countries based on 10 years of individual asylum-seeker recognition.
  3. Persons whose applications for asylum or refugee status are pending as at 30 June 2015 at any stage in the asylum procedure.
  4. Refugees who have returned to their place of origin during the first half of 2015. Source: country of origin and asylum.
  5. Persons who are displaced within their country and to whom UNHCR extends protection and assistance. It also includes people in IDP-like situations. This category is descriptive in nature and includes groups of persons who are inside their country of nationality or habitual residence and who face protection risks similar to those of IDPs but who, for practical or other reasons, could not be reported as such.
  6. IDPs protected/assisted by UNHCR who have returned to their place of origin during the first half of 2015.
  7. Refers to persons who are not considered as nationals by any State under the operation of its law. This category refers to persons who fall under the agency's statelessness mandate because they are stateless according to this international definition, but data from some countries may also include persons with undetermined nationality.
  8. Refers to individuals who do not necessarily fall directly into any of the other groups but to whom UNHCR may extend its protection and/or assistance services. These activities might be based on humanitarian or other special grounds.
The data are generally provided by Governments, based on their own definitions and methods of data collection.
A dash (-) indicates that the value is zero, not available or not applicable.

Source: UNHCR/Governments.
Compiled by: UNHCR, FICSS.
Residing in Burkina Faso [1]
Refugees [2] 34,027
Asylum Seekers [3] 180
Returned Refugees [4] 0
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Stateless Persons [7] 0
Various [8] 0
Total Population of Concern 34,207
Originating from Burkina Faso [1]
Refugees [2] 1,862
Asylum Seekers [3] 2,049
Returned Refugees [4] 0
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Various [8] 1
Total Population of Concern 3,912

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Barbara Hendricks visits Malian refugees in Burkina Faso

UNHCR Honorary Lifetime Goodwill Ambassador Barbara Hendricks met with Malian refugees in Damba Camp on July 6, 2012, in northern Burkina Faso. The acclaimed soprano is using the visit to highlight the plight of tens of thousands of refugees who have fled from conflict in their country this year and are living in camps or settlements in neighbouring countries. As of early July, more than 198,000 Malians had fled to Mauritania (88,825), Burkina Faso (65,009) and Niger (44,987). At least 160,000 were estimated to be displaced within Mali, most in the north.

Barbara Hendricks visits Malian refugees in Burkina Faso

Harsh life for Malian refugees in Burkina Faso

Some 3,900 Malian refugees are living in Damba camp in northern Burkina Faso. They left their homes in Gossi and Gao in northern Mali to escape fighting between rebel Tuareg movement and the Malian army as well as threats posed by criminal gangs and Islamist groups. Several families have recently arrived in the camp, worried that an attack on Gao in June will spill over to other towns. Life is harsh in the camp and UNHCR urgently needs fresh funds to ensure life-saving assistance for this silent humanitarian crisis.

More than 380,000 Malians have been forced to flee their homes this year. Over 65,000 of them have found refuge in Burkina Faso. And this comes at a time when the countries in the Sahel region are suffering from drought and food shortfalls.

Harsh life for Malian refugees in Burkina Faso

UNHCR chief meets Malian refugees in Burkina Faso

On 1 August, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres travelled to northern Burkina Faso with the United States' Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (BRPM), Anne Richard. In Damba camp, they met with Malian refugees who had fled northern Mali in the past six months to escape the ongoing conflict and political instability. To date, more than 250,000 Malian refugees have fled their homes and found refuge in neighbouring countries, including 107,000 in Burkina Faso alone. The UN refugee agency has only received one-third of the US$153 million it needs to provide life-saving assistance such as shelter, water, sanitation, health services, nutrition and protection to the refugees. UNHCR fears that the volatile political and humanitarian situation in Mali could lead to further outflows to neighbouring countries.

UNHCR chief meets Malian refugees in Burkina Faso

The Most Important Thing – Malian Refugees in Burkina Faso

"The Most Important Thing" documents - in words and pictures - some of the tough decisions people face when they have to flee their home. With support from UNHCR, American photographer Brian Sokol began the project in South Sudan, taking portraits of Sudanese refugees carrying the most valuable possession they brought with them into exile. He also asked them to explain their decision. Sokol continued with Syrian refugees in Iraq and in this photo essay looks at Malians in refugee camps in neighbouring Burkina Faso. While the photographs may reveal a fair amount about the subjects, it is their words - their stories - that share far more.

For the Sudanese, the most important things were primarily objects to keep them alive during their long, difficult journey: a pot, an axe, a water jug or a basket. For Syrians, the objects were largely sentimental: an old ring, a torn photograph, the key to a door that may no longer exist. Among the Malians depicted in this photo gallery, the objects largely had to do with their cultural identity. They spoke of how the items helped them to still feel part of their people, despite being forced into exile.

The Most Important Thing – Malian Refugees in Burkina Faso

Relocation from the Border Country of Burkina Faso

The process of relocating refugees from one site to a safer one is full of challenges. In Burkina Faso, the UN refugee agency has been working with partner organizations and the government to move thousands of Malian refugee families away from border sites like Damba to a safer camp some 100 kilometres to the south. Working under hot and harsh conditions, the aid workers had to dismantle shelters and help people load their belongings onto trucks for the journey. The new site at Mentao is also much easier to access with emergency assistance, including shelter, food, health care and education. These images, taken by photographer Brian Sokol, follow the journey made by Agade Ag Mohammed, a 71-year-old nomad, and his family from Damba to Mentao in March. They fled their home in Gao province last year to escape the violence in Mali, including a massacre that left two of his sons, a brother and five nephews dead. As of mid-April 2013 there were more than 173,000 Malian refugees in neighbouring countries. Within the arid West African nation there are an estimated 260,000 internally displaced people.

Relocation from the Border Country of Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso: Election Sunday Play video

Burkina Faso: Election Sunday

Hundreds of Malian refugees voted in exile at the weekend in the presidential election in their home country, way down on the numbers eligible to cast a ballot.

Burkina Faso: Water CaravansPlay video

Burkina Faso: Water Caravans

In Burkina Faso's arid Sahel region, UNHCR trucks are shuttling desperately needed water supplies to Malian refugees.
Burkina Faso: Moving to SafetyPlay video

Burkina Faso: Moving to Safety

Malian refugees in Burkina Faso's Fererio camp are moved further away from the border with Mali to ensure their safety.
Burkina Faso: A Harsh ExilePlay video

Burkina Faso: A Harsh Exile

107,000 Malians have arrived in this small West African country since January. They have abandoned everything to escape the conflict in northern Mali and now must survive in refugee camps in Burkina Faso.
Burkina Faso: Appeal for HelpPlay video

Burkina Faso: Appeal for Help

The Mali crisis has driven over 250,000 people into the region. UNHCR chief António Guterres travelled to the largest host country in a call for more support.