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Trends and Challenges in West and Central Africa

The West and Central African region presents specific fragilities related to the weakness of basic social services, economic pressures impacting livelihoods as well as growing security challenges that can in turn aggravate an already fragile situation. The pandemic has/will have a major impact on the below:

Vulnerable migrants

Migrants and mobile populations in the region are heavily affected by the consequences of the pandemic (such as border closures) and can find themselves in particular vulnerable situations. So far, over 21,000 migrants are stranded at borders and over 2,500 are currently waiting in transit centers (mainly in Niger, Mali, Chad and Burkina Faso) for their voluntary return. Most of the centers have already reached maximal capacities. In Mali, IOM is limiting admissions only to the most vulnerable migrants. Overpopulation and lengthier stays in transit centres may lead to increased tensions and psychological stress among migrants and may expose them to a higher risk of contracting COVID-19.

Borders and intraregional flows

Despite border closures and travel restrictions in place across the region, a number of land borders are still open to the transport of goods. The closure of border posts has a heavy impact on border communities’ economy and it may lead to the crossings at non-official points of entry, especially small-scale border traders, who have potentially lost their income.

Border officials are “the frontline fighters” against COVID-19 and as such are involved in the response.  However, the majority of them do not have neither the equipment to screen for the disease at border crossings, seaports and airports nor the information to raise awareness among border communities and travelers.

Although too early to confirm as a new trend related to COVID-19, migration flows have decreased by 10% in the region since early 2020.