UNHCR condemns attack on Niger town hosting forcibly displaced people
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, condemns an attack by armed assailants on Toumour, a town in south-east Niger, that killed 28 people and injured hundreds more.
UNHCR is gravely concerned for the safety of over 30,000 refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) who have been sheltering in Toumour.
The four-hour attack, claimed by Boko Haram, began at 19:00 on 12 December. According to local sources, the assailants destroyed nearly two-thirds of the town’s homes, burned the Toumour market to the ground, and killed more than a thousand cattle. Following the attack, most of the population fled to the bush, with some people returning only at daytime.
Toumour, 14 kilometres from the border with Nigeria, hosts 20,000 Nigerian refugees, 8,300 IDPs, and 3,600 returnees still in need of humanitarian assistance.
As of Monday morning, 14 December, our teams and partners reported that people were on the move from Toumour toward Diffa, a town some 100 kilometres away and host to 46,000 refugees, asylum seekers, IDPs, and returnees. Together with humanitarian partners and local authorities, UNHCR is organizing emergency shelter, food, water, and health support to the affected communities. However, recent heavy floods have made it difficult for aid workers to reach Toumour.
The Diffa region in south-east Niger has been hit hard by increasing extremist violence in the Lake Chad basin that has forced hundreds of thousands into the region. In the first nine months of this year, over 450 acts of killing, kidnapping, sexual and gender-based violence, and other serious incidents were reported.
UNHCR and its partners are currently providing protection and humanitarian aid to more than 265,000 forcibly displaced people including nearly 130,000 Nigerian refugees and asylum seekers, 102,726 internally displaced Nigeriens, and 34,324 returnees in the Diffa region. The COVID-19 pandemic further complicates the response as most of the displaced are sheltering in crowded urban areas where social distancing is impossible.
Despite increased insecurity, Niger continues to show generosity towards people fleeing violence in the Lake Chad and Niger’s Sahel regions.
UNHCR is also calling for increased financial support to ensure a comprehensive response to humanitarian emergencies in the Lake Chad Basin, where 300,000 people have been forced to flee violence as refugees and another 2.9 million people are displaced within their own country. As of early December, 52 per cent of the US$126.3 million required for the region had been funded.
Strengthening capacity across the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin remains critical to swiftly address the challenges in the region to respond to population movements through initiatives such as the Bamako Process and the Abuja Action Statement, launched in 2019.
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