Media Advisory: UN agency chiefs to visit Niger 4 to 7 May

Briefing Notes, 4 May 2012

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 4 May 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme, Ertharin Cousin, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, are scheduled to arrive today in the drought-hit country of Niger, West Africa.

The two senior UN officials are to fly to the capital, Niamey and will spend two days visiting projects in Ouallam and Maradi where hunger and malnutrition have reached emergency levels. They will meet some of the tens of thousands of refugees in Mangaize, northern Niger, who have fled from fighting in neighbouring Mali, putting further strain on communities in Niger that are already facing a food crisis.

WFP has launched an emergency operation to provide food assistance to nearly 4 million people in Niger, and is working in partnership with UNHCR to support some 160,000 Malian refugees throughout the Sahel region. The High Commissioner and Executive Director aim to sensitize the international community and to mobilize its support for emergency assistance to the people affected by drought and as well as by instability in Mali.

For more information:

  • WFP
  • Malek Triki, WFP/Dakar Mob. +221 77 6375964
  • Vigno Hounkanli, PAM/Niamey +227 207 22320, Mob. +227 912 05585
  • Emilia Casella, WFP/Rome +39 06 6513 3854, Mob. +39 347 9450634
  • Elizabeth Byrs, WFP/Geneva, Mob. +41 79 473 4570
  • Bettina Luescher, WFP/New York, +1 646 5566909, Mob. +1 646 8241112
  • (WFP e-mail addresses:
  • - Niger
  • Helene Caux, +227 9237 2479,
  • - Geneva
  • Melissa Fleming, +41 79 557 9120,
  • Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba, +41 79 249 3483,
  • Adrian Edwards, +41 79 557 9120,

For additional data and information on the Sahel emergency, visit,, and




UNHCR country pages

Mali Crisis: Urgent Appeal

More than 300,000 Malians have been forced to abandon homes in the hope of finding safety. Help us protect them.

Donate to this crisis

Thousands Start Afresh in Niger After Fleeing Nigeria

In May 2013, the Nigerian government, responding to a surge in violence in the north-east of the country, declared a state of emergency in the volatile states of Borno, Adawama and Yobe. Many people fled to neighbouring Niger's Diffa region and to the Far North Region of Cameroon. Fresh violence in January this year has forced thousands more to flee to both countries. UNHCR photographer Hélène Caux visited the towns of Bosso and Diffa in Niger's Diffa region shortly before the latest influx. She met some of the Nigerian refugees who had fled earlier waves of violence across the border. They told her of the violence they had seen, the losses they had suffered and their attempts to lead as normal a life as possible in Diffa, including sending their children to attend school. They are grateful to the communities that have welcomed and helped them in Niger.

Thousands Start Afresh in Niger After Fleeing Nigeria

The Most Important Thing – Malian Refugees in Burkina Faso

"The Most Important Thing" documents - in words and pictures - some of the tough decisions people face when they have to flee their home. With support from UNHCR, American photographer Brian Sokol began the project in South Sudan, taking portraits of Sudanese refugees carrying the most valuable possession they brought with them into exile. He also asked them to explain their decision. Sokol continued with Syrian refugees in Iraq and in this photo essay looks at Malians in refugee camps in neighbouring Burkina Faso. While the photographs may reveal a fair amount about the subjects, it is their words - their stories - that share far more.

For the Sudanese, the most important things were primarily objects to keep them alive during their long, difficult journey: a pot, an axe, a water jug or a basket. For Syrians, the objects were largely sentimental: an old ring, a torn photograph, the key to a door that may no longer exist. Among the Malians depicted in this photo gallery, the objects largely had to do with their cultural identity. They spoke of how the items helped them to still feel part of their people, despite being forced into exile.

The Most Important Thing – Malian Refugees in Burkina Faso

Relocation from the Border Country of Burkina Faso

The process of relocating refugees from one site to a safer one is full of challenges. In Burkina Faso, the UN refugee agency has been working with partner organizations and the government to move thousands of Malian refugee families away from border sites like Damba to a safer camp some 100 kilometres to the south. Working under hot and harsh conditions, the aid workers had to dismantle shelters and help people load their belongings onto trucks for the journey. The new site at Mentao is also much easier to access with emergency assistance, including shelter, food, health care and education. These images, taken by photographer Brian Sokol, follow the journey made by Agade Ag Mohammed, a 71-year-old nomad, and his family from Damba to Mentao in March. They fled their home in Gao province last year to escape the violence in Mali, including a massacre that left two of his sons, a brother and five nephews dead. As of mid-April 2013 there were more than 173,000 Malian refugees in neighbouring countries. Within the arid West African nation there are an estimated 260,000 internally displaced people.

Relocation from the Border Country of Burkina Faso

Alternatives to Camps in NigerPlay video

Alternatives to Camps in Niger

Niger: Flight from Nigeria
Play video

Niger: Flight from Nigeria

People escaping the fighting between the Nigerian army and Boko Haram rebels get a friendly welcome in Niger.
Mauritania: Mali Elections In Mauritania Play video

Mauritania: Mali Elections In Mauritania

Hundreds of Malian refugees voted in exile at the weekend in the presidential election in their home country, way down on the numbers eligible to cast a ballot.