Niger: People fleeing conflict in Nigeria continue to arrive in Diffa area
GENEVA, Switzerland, May 16, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The situation in north-eastern Nigeria is having a severe impact on neighbouring south-eastern Niger. Armed clashes are occurring in villages situated within hundreds of metres of the border. For the first time, clashes have pitted the Niger armed forces against armed men active in this part of the country.
"Recent attacks near the border have once again driven hundreds of families seeking safety to take refuge in the Diffa area," said Jean-Nicolas Marti, head of the ICRC delegation in Niger. "We are worried about the humanitarian effects this situation will have in a part of the country that is already accommodating thousands of displaced people."
Attending to the injured
The violence that has occurred in recent weeks has resulted in injuries to many people, including nine who were taken to the ICRC-supported Diffa Regional Hospital and one person, more seriously injured, who was referred to Zinder National Hospital.
The ICRC is continuing to deliver medicines and other medical supplies to the Diffa hospital, which is the main treatment centre for the entire region, in order to enhance the ability of that facility to provide treatment for gunshot wounds in the event of a major influx of patients. The ICRC is also providing support for the health-care centre in Bosso, on the shores of Lake Chad, which is admitting large numbers of displaced people.
Providing emergency relief for the displaced
Thousands of internally displaced people, refugees from other countries and returnees are living in conditions of great hardship on the islands of Lake Chad, a remote area where the borders of Chad, Niger and Nigeria converge.
"Several hundred families have no access to such basic necessities as clean water, health care and education for their children. Some do not even have shelter," said Jean-Pierre Nereyabagabo, an ICRC expert on economic security. "The situation on the islands is particularly complex because no suitable facilities are available for dealing with the current influx of displaced people. With rising water levels and no means of getting there except by pirogue, any aid operation is a major logistical challenge."
This is the context in which the ICRC and the Red Cross Society of Niger have just completed a distribution of food to some 1,800 needy displaced people who have taken refuge on the islands of Gadira, Koitamota and Karamga, which brings the total number of people in the region who have received ICRC emergency relief to around 12,000.
In the Bosso area, dozens of families who lost their homes and all their possessions when their villages were attacked and destroyed by fire were given blankets, tarpaulins, mosquito nets, sleeping mats, clothing and kitchen utensils.
"Since the declaration of a state of emergency and the escalation of armed violence in certain north-eastern Nigerian states, the ICRC has strengthened its presence in the Diffa area," said Mr Marti. "In view of the changing situation, we intend to give ourselves the ability to respond swiftly and effectively to the humanitarian needs of people fleeing the violence and seeking refuge in Niger."