Security and humanitarian situations worsen in Diffa, Niger, as Boko Haram continues attacks in the region
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is seeing increasing insecurity and worsening humanitarian conditions in the region of Diffa, south-eastern Niger. According to Government figures as of mid-May, the area was hosting over 241,000 Nigerian refugees, internally displaced people from Niger and returning Niger nationals who had been living in Nigeria. The security situation around the towns of Diffa and Bosso, to the east, has deteriorated in recent months, with a succession of criminal incidents including suicide attacks near villages and spontaneous sites where both Nigerian refugees and the internally displaced are being sheltered.
Some 157,000 people who have fled Boko’s Haram terror have settled in 135 makeshift encampments along 200 kilometres of Route National 1, a major road that runs parallel to the border with Nigeria and the Komadougou river. Two large markets along that road have been closed since April out of fear that infiltrated insurgents could attack. This hits livelihoods and the local economy. A 7pm to 5am curfew is in force across the region, which has been under a state of emergency since February 2015.
Most of the displaced along Route National 1 fled Boko Haram attacks last year in north-eastern Nigeria. The violence spilled over at times into Niger, leaving them with no other choice than to settle along the road as surrounding villages and towns are already hosting people from previous influxes and have no more capacity. Many of these people have been displaced two or three times prior to settling along the road. Both the local and displaced communities are fearful of new attacks.
Living conditions along Route National 1 are harsh: in this remote and semi-desert environment, temperatures are reaching 48 degrees Celsius at present (the current dry season), while rains that will follow in two or three months often flood the ramshackle settlements. Shelters are made of straw, and sanitation is basic, with few latrines and showers. Many children do not have access to education because of limited schooling structures in the nearby villages, which are already overcrowded, and because of closures of many schools in insecure areas close to the border. Food supplies are irregular, and the local population is not always able to share their meagre resources with the displaced people.
Aid agencies are struggling to bring assistance to the displaced due to the highly insecure environment, the increasing number of sites – some of them remote – and a lack of funding. Of US$112 million required by 22 aid agencies including UNHCR, for operations in the Diffa region in 2016 (RRRP 2016), only $20 million has been received to date. Farmers, herders, fishermen, traders, and shopkeepers have lost their main sources of incomes as a result of the displacement and insecurity in the region. Additional funding is needed to develop livelihoods for these people, so that they can become self-reliant and once again a part of the economic development in the region.
More and more refugees and internally displaced tell us they want to move further away from the volatile border area, as they fear insurgents could attack their settlements in Niger, as they did in their villages in Nigeria and Diffa. Ten days ago, at the government’s request, UNHCR started to relocate hundreds of refugees from two spontaneous sites along Route National 1 to a camp some 50 kilometres from the border. Although most people prefer to live outside of the camps, they have decided to move for both protection reasons and for access to food and adequate services. The camp presently hosts some 3,000 people. The voluntary relocation of internally displaced people from the border areas to other areas, such as camps and other villages in Diffa region, where security is better ensured, is also planned in the near future.
In all, 2.7 million (2,674,421) people are displaced in the Lake Chad Basin area because of the violence linked to Boko Haram. 2.1 million are internally displaced in Nigeria. In addition, there are 241,256 displaced people in Niger (82,524 Nigerian refugees, 31,524 Niger returnees, 127,208 IDPs), including 157,945 along Route National 1; 270,210 displaced people are in Cameroon (64,938 Nigerian refugees, 169,970 IDPs, 35,302 Cameroon returnees); and 7,337 Nigerian refugees are in Chad.
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