(CNN)When Laurent Dabiré was appointed as a bishop in northern Burkina Faso in 2013, Dori was a very different place.
8 million children have been forced out of school by growing violence in west Africa
Back then, he told CNN, people of different religions and ethnicities treated each other with mutual respect in the tri-border community near Niger and Mali.
In the years since, however, Dabiré has witnessed how this once stable part of the Sahel region slipped into a spasm of violent anarchy and terror, his own diocese becoming both a refuge and a target.
Every week Dabiré comforts terrified victims streaming into Dori's makeshift camps. They have come in their tens of thousands -- victims of relentless attacks by Islamic militants and other armed groups. He says many flee with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
"Most of them have lost family members, we're talking about widows and orphans. It's a very difficult period we're living in. It is a serious humanitarian crisis. It is hard to house these people, to feed them, to find schools for the children," says Dabiré.
A new UNICEF report released on Tuesday quantifies the alarming human cost of the escalating violence. More than 8 million school-aged children in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger have been forced from school. Nearly 1 million people are now displaced, with more than half of those coming from Burkina Faso.
"When you go to school you see that there is a possibility of a different way -- you hope that you can be someone, but now these children do not have normal lives" Anne Vincent, UNICEF's representative in Burkina Faso, told CNN.