ANKARA 

Rising violence in the African Sahel region countries of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger has caused a 62% spike in deaths and forced more than a million people to flee their homes over the last year, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Monday.

“The combination of rising violence and deaths, shuttered health care facilities, climate change effects and the COVID-19 pandemic make this a complex and multilayered crisis,” ICRC President Peter Maurer was quoted as saying during a trip to the region over the last week.

“People here are facing a battering ram of challenges leading to intense suffering for families,” he said, according to the ICRC report.

“Government budgets are strained globally due to the health and job repercussions of COVID-19, but it’s clear that this region of the world needs assistance to alleviate the crippling consequences of both armed conflict and climate risks,” Maurer added.

In the first six months of 2020, more than 4,660 people died over violence in the three countries, according to data from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, the ICRC said.

“The ICRC is extremely concerned about the level of violence and recalls that, under international humanitarian law, the civilian population must be protected and spared,” read the report.

Regarding Red Cross efforts to help, it said it “recently allocated an additional 12 million Swiss francs (about $13.2 million) to its operational budget for the Sahel region.”

“These funds will be dedicated to seeking enhanced protection for civilians, backing the provision of essential services and supporting conflict-affected communities to restore their livelihoods,” according to the report.

The Sahel — the boundary between the Sahara Desert and the Sudanian savanna — has long been one of Africa’s most vulnerable regions.

The surge in armed violence across Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger is having a devastating impact on children’s survival, education, protection and development.

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