Malnutrition, disease, floods, droughts and displacement in Niger have put nearly three million people, more than half of them children, in need of humanitarian assistance, UNICEF said on Wednesday, calling for increased attention to their plight.
Exacerbated by instability in the region that has led to an influx of thousands of refugees, returnees, internally displaced persons and migrants, simultaneous emergencies are stretching the capacities of humanitarian partners to respond.
"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 Félicité Tchibindat, UNICEF Representative, following a visit to the conflict-affected region of Diffa.
"As more attention is now paid to the resurgence of armed violence in the central Sahel, it is equally important to pay the same attention to its impact on children and their families," she added.
And insecurity increases the already significant chronic challenges in Niger.
Attacks against civilians in the Lake Chad region prevented 263,000 people in Diffa from returning to their homes.
At the same time, growing insecurity along the borders with Burkina Faso and Mali has exacerbated needs in Tillabéri and Tahoua regions, where nearly 78,000 people have been displaced.
Moreover, deteriorating security on the border with Nigeria has caused tens of thousands of people to seek refuge in border villages of the Maradi region, in central Niger.
Insecurity is spreading rapidly in the central Sahel region, and 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", warned the UNICEF envoy.
The sharp increase in insecurity, violence and military operations has also hampered humanitarian actors' access to populations affected by conflict.
Reaching those in need is increasingly challenging -- UNICEF Representative
“Reaching those in need is increasingly challenging”, she said. “UNICEF calls on all stakeholders to respect humanitarian spaces allowing safe and sustainable access to deliver humanitarian assistance to affected populations, including women and children, wherever they are”.
UNICEF also appealed for solidarity to help the Government and its partners to meet the urgent needs of the affected populations and provide vital assistance to improve their living conditions.
As the situation worsens, attention has been oriented to the security dimensions, directly impacting access to education, health, nutrition, water and sanitation – the basis of people’s resilience.
“National and international partners are called upon to protect and further promote social investments that transform children's lives" said the UNICEF Representative.
UNICEF in Niger
UNICEF is working in the country on several priority fronts to help those affected by emergencies and conflicts.
It is working with national actors and humanitarian partners to respond to acute emergencies, such as population movements, and strengthen national capacities to mitigate risks and respond to cyclical and chronic emergencies, including flooding, malnutrition, disease outbreaks and epidemics.
In 2020, the UN agency and its partners will need $59.4 million to deliver vital humanitarian aid to children throughout the country.