This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency is extremely worried over the alarming increase of attacks in the south-east of Niger, affecting locals and refugees in the region. In the month of March alone, some 88 civilians were reported dead in the escalation of violence.
We are dismayed to see the population’s suffering increase with each passing month, since early 2019. The beginning of the year has brought a resurgence of violent attacks by Boko Haram, targeting security and defence forces, as well as the civilian population in the region of Diffa – near the Nigerian border.
Since 2015, the number of people forcibly displaced within the region of Diffa has risen to almost 250,000 – almost half of them are refugees from Nigeria, who had fled similar attacks and sought refuge across the border.
Recent attacks have displaced more than 18,000 people, many on the run for a second or third time, many seeking safety in Diffa town.
UNHCR is currently working with the government of Niger and our humanitarian partners to assist the newly displaced. We are trying to immediately relocate some 10,000 refugees from locations close to the border to the Sayam Forage refugee camp, some 45 kilometers away from the border. The camp is already hosting more than 15,000 refugees.
Additionally, UNHCR is supporting the government to seek alternative solutions for the remainder of the newly displaced and highly vulnerable people in desperate need of safety and humanitarian assistance.
UNHCR has mobilised psychosocial support workers to respond to the immediate needs of the newly displaced who are highly traumatised, in particular women and children.
Reports also suggest that the latest round of violence is displacing people across the border into Nigeria, including to the towns of Damasak and Maiduguri. They are leaving due to fear of the increasing insecurity in the Diffa region, as well as to search for humanitarian assistance.
Despite the tense security situation, UNHCR continues to work with the authorities and partners to provide immediate support to refugees and host communities as well as work on long-term recovery and development initiatives in the Diffa region. The Government of Niger just launched a support project worth US$80 million, jointly developed with the World Bank and UNHCR.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).