Nearly three million people in Niger, over half of whom are children, are suffering at the hands of various natural and man-made crises and are in need of humanitarian aid, the United Nations said on Wednesday.
In a statement, UNICEF cited “the risks posed by insecurity, malnutrition, recurrent disease epidemics and outbreaks, cyclical floods, droughts and displacement” as the causes behind a crisis threatening 2.9 million people, including 1.6 million children.
“Insecurity is spreading at a rapid pace in the central Sahel region,” said Felicite Tchibindat, UNICEF’s regional nutrition advisor, following a visit to the conflict-affected region of Diffa.
“Women and children are bearing the brunt of the violence.
“In already fragile host communities, the burden of forced displacement increases the vulnerability of children and communities and significantly affects their health, protection, nutrition, and education.”
Since 2015, Niger has struggled against a wave of jihadist attacks near the borders with Mali and Burkina Faso in the west, exacerbating needs in Tillaberi and Tahoua regions, where nearly 78,000 people have been displaced.
“Attacks against civilians in the Lake Chad region prevented 263,000 people in Diffa from returning to their homes,” said the statement, adding that deteriorating security on the border with Nigeria has also resulted in the movement of tens of thousands of people.
Niger is home to nearly 450,000 refugees – Nigerians, Malians and Burkinabe – and internally displaced people, trying to escape jihadist violence or armed gangs, according to the U.N.
Some refugees and displaced persons live in the midst of an already very poor population.
“In a context of constrained resources and limited social services, the communities that host displaced populations are showing extraordinary resilience and sharing the little they have,” said Tchibindat.
“This truly is a great example that Nigeriens are showing to world.”
On Monday, 15 women and five children were trampled to death in a stampede for food and money for refugees in the southeast of the country.
According to U.N. figures, jihadist attacks in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger left around 4,000 dead last year.