A group of women paddle their dugout canoe on the Niger River. (AP Photo/Clement N\'taye)

New York -

Conflicts and climate change have contributed to the creation of 350 000 refugees in the Sahel region this year, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said Monday.

A further 200 000 people are internally displaced in the Sahel, which comprises Algeria, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mauritania, Niger and Togo. The conflict in Mali has forced 140,000 people to flee to neighbouring countries, Antonio Guterres told a UN Security Council meeting on the Sahel region.

“The Mali displacement crisis, which has significant consequences for the wider Sahel region, is a case in point,” Guterres said in calling for assistance and legal measures for refugees seeking a new life.

He said insecurity continues to hamper humanitarian assistance and protection of civilians against sexual violence, child recruitment and human rights violations. UNHCR did not provide a breakdown of the number of people affected by insecurity and climate. - Sapa-dpa