Media CenterCRS Responds to Increasing Violence and Displacement in the Sahel

Sylvain Cherkaoui for CRS

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Dakar, Senegal:
Michael Stulman
Catholic Relief Services
[email protected]
+221 77 370 30 37

Baltimore, Maryland:
Nikki Gamer
Catholic Relief Services
[email protected]
443-955- 7125

DAKAR, SENEGAL, September 12, 2019 – Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is responding to widespread displacement across the Sahel as a result of growing violence in the region. In 2018, more than 320,000 people in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger were forced to leave their homes. These numbers are rising rapidly, with Burkina Faso seeing a four-fold increase since the start of this year.

“The increase of violent attacks has been devastating to so many families,” said Jennifer Overton, CRS’ regional director for West Africa. “People are struggling not only to keep their families safe and together, but also to meet basic needs like food and shelter.”

Earlier this year, Overton visited Timbuktu and Mopti in Mali, the frontlines of violence in the region, and met with partner organizations, government officials and Church leaders.

Although the region is known for chronic poverty, governance challenges and food insecurity, other factors like youth unemployment, the impact of climate change and limited access to basic services like education and healthcare are now exacerbating tensions in communities and fueling increasing violence linked to ethnic and/or violent extremist agendas.

Despite efforts from national security forces to counter the spreading violence, thousands of men, women and children are threatened by displacement. CRS is also responding in Niger. “We are working in Niger and across the region to help those who are struggling to feed their families,” said Ali Abdoulaye, CRS’ country representative in Niger. “So many people are worried about what the future will bring for themselves and their children. Families have been forced to leave their homes and farms behind in order to save their lives, but they’ve now exhausted their reserves. They’ve lost any sense of security they had.”

CRS has launched an emergency response in all three countries, providing clean water and sanitation services, food, shelter and household items for more than 22,000 displaced families. In parallel, CRS continues its long-term development work in the region, including healthcare, education, and agricultural and peacebuilding projects, with the goal of preventing and mitigating future humanitarian and security crises.

“The challenges facing the Sahel go beyond any one border. It will be essential to continue to address peace and security, resilience and development from a regional perspective and more needs to be done,” said Overton. “Very simply, unless this trend is reversed, we risk losing so many development gains over the last decade. The window to prevent this backsliding is rapidly closing and demands urgent attention from the international community.”


Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS’ relief and development work is accomplished through programs of emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance and peacebuilding.  For more information, visit or and follow Catholic Relief Services on social media in English at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube; and in Spanish at: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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Michael Stulman

West and Central Africa - Regional Information Officer

Michael Stulman
September 12, 2019

Based in Dakar, Senegal...More