Surging violence in north-west Nigeria drives displacement to Niger

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AWARIDI REFUGEE SETTLEMENT, NIGER. December 11, 2019 Nigerian refugee women at the growing Awaridi refugee settlement now home to 9,000 plus mostly northern Nigerians who fled Boko Haram violence over the past few years. (Photo by Giles Clarke/Getty Images)

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, said it is alarmed by surging violence in north-west Nigeria which has fueled displacement into neighboring Niger’s Maradi region, where violence is also on the rise.

FILE PHOTO: Nigerian refugee women at the growing Awaridi refugee settlement home to thousands of people, mostly northern Nigerians who fled Boko Haram violence over the past few years. (Photo by Giles Clarke/Getty Images)

Fearing armed groups and communal clashes, more than 7,660 refugees have fled Nigeria into Maradi this year and another 3,500 citizens of Niger have been displaced inside the country. Most of the refugees are women and children, displaced following recent attacks in Nigeria’s Sokoto state.

The Maradi region, in southern Niger, now hosts nearly 100,000 displaced people, including 77,000 Nigerian refugees, who have fled relentless attacks in Katsina, Sokoto, and Zamfara states.

“UNHCR commends the generosity of Niger as it continues to grant access to asylum, despite border restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic,” UNHCR spokesperson Boris Cheshirkov.

According to Cheshirkov, UNHCR teams in Niger have recorded a spike in deadly violence inside Maradi itself, with more casualties and serious incidents reported in January and February 2021 than in the second half 2020.

Refugees describe gruesome murders, kidnappings for ransom, and looted villages. Many have also been caught up in clashes between farmers and herders as well as vigilantism, as self-defense groups are being set up in most villages.

People fleeing are in urgent need of water, food, shelter, and health services. Most have fled empty handed in the rush to save their lives.

UNHCR is providing life-saving assistance and protection and has scaled up border monitoring activities.

Cheshirkov: “Our teams are also registering new arrivals to identify people with vulnerabilities and other specific needs.”

Since October 2019, some 11,320 refugees have been relocated to other villages where UNHCR and its partners have strengthened water, health, sanitation, and education infrastructure for the displaced and their hosts, helping to ease pressure on communities who have shown incredible generosity but have limited means.

Armed groups in the Sahel and Lake Chad regions have been fueling one of the world’s fastest growing displacement and protection crises. To date, more than 3.2 million people have been displaced by violence in the Lake Chad Basin.

Humanitarian efforts to respond to the emergency are dangerously overstretched –UNHCR’s Lake Chad Basin operation requires US$128.6 million and is only 10 per cent funded.

UNHCR is urging the international community to boost support for the region and to help governments root out the causes of this forced displacement and to boost strategic and sustainable development.

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