New tool predicts coronavirus will displace millions of Africans

Chaos in the Sahel to shift to a new level as pandemic takes hold

FILE - In this July, 22, 2020, file photo, an open truck carries farmers wearing face masks on the first day of the curfew in Harare, Wednesday, July, 22, 2020. Africa’s confirmed coronavirus cases have surpassed 1 million, but global health experts tell The Associated Press the true toll is several times higher. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, File)

A new tool has predicted the displacement of over a million people in the Sahel, as Covid-19 creates havoc across the brittle region.

In some countries, such as Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Nigeria, the pandemic is expected to increase forced displacement by more than 14 percentage points.

This is the equivalent of a minimum of an additional one million people being displaced across the four countries if no action is taken.

And figures from the UN Refugee Agency show that at the end of 2019, global displacement had surged to nearly 80 million people - a precipitous rise from the start of the century.

Developed by the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) with funding from the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Foresight tool has already been deployed in both Myanmar and Afghanistan to predict upcoming humanitarian aid needs for crisis hit regions.

If the scenario modelling proves accurate, then humanitarian relief agencies will have been afforded precious precision time to establish plans of action and mitigation measures.

The tool analyses a range of factors, from economic and governmental through to environmental and stability, to formulate its predictions. It draws on World Bank, UN and other publicly available data sources to do so.

“The first real-life tests in Afghanistan and Myanmar confirm that the Foresight tool forecasts displacement with a safety margin of as little as +/- 10 per cent,” said Anders Tharsgaard, DRC’s head of business engagement.

Data shows that Covid-19 increases unemployment, lowers economic growth and weakens governance in several countries.

Based on the Foresight analysis of data for four countries there is also a quantifiable increased risk of large-scale displacement in countries hit by war, famine and natural disasters.

DRC is now expected to roll-out the tool in the 40 countries in which it is active.

“We expect the Foresight project to help us secure better protection of refugees and displaced people," said DRC Secretary General, Charlotte Slente.

Ms Siente added that it will also help "to prevent displacement and humanitarian needs generally,"