Armed violence in north-eastern Nigeria is still causing displacement towards Niger, Cameroon and Chad. The ICRC and the Red Cross Society of Niger are providing emergency aid for thousands of people in the Diffa area.
"Everyday life is a struggle for these people. Many of them, including the women and children, had to flee in a great hurry and are completely destitute," said Pascal Porchet, deputy head of the ICRC delegation in Niger. "Most have found refuge with host families. To meet their basic needs, they depend on the willingness of the community to help, and on aid from humanitarian organizations."
Since May of this year, several thousand people have fled danger and violence in the states of Borno and Yobe, in Nigeria, to take refuge in the Diffa area, in Niger, some 1,300 kilometres from the capital Niamey, or in Cameroon or Chad. Every day, the ICRC registers new people arriving.
"Most of us are originally from Niger and some of us have been in Nigeria for decades. It would be very hard to go back to our home country because if we did we'd have to completely rebuild our lives," said a displaced person. There are also several hundred displaced people of other nationalities, most of them from Nigeria but also people from Chad, Cameroon and the Central African Republic.
Vital humanitarian aid
For six months, the Red Cross Society of Niger and the ICRC have been distributing monthly food rations to around 6,000 people. In addition, some 350 families have been given household essentials such as tarpaulins, kitchen supplies, mosquito nets and blankets.
Over the past few days, a new distribution of food has been carried out for around 3,750 people in the Toumour, Nguel Kolo, Chetimari and Diffa communities. Each family was given 100 kilograms of rice, 25 of beans, 10 litres of cooking oil and one kilo of salt so that they would have enough to eat for a month.
Improving access to water
"Access to clean drinking water is a major problem in this area. With the influx of people fleeing Nigeria and wells running dry, some people have no choice but to use standing water despite the major health risks involved," said Tiemoko Ouattara, an ICRC engineer in Niger.
The ICRC has therefore connected a borehole to a reservoir supplying water to the city of Bosso. In addition, eight wells have been upgraded and further work is under way to consolidate these structures and make them easier for people to use.
In N'Guelkiara, some 30 kilometres from Diffa, a new well has been sunk to facilitate the resettlement of nomadic Fulanis who also had to flee violence in Nigeria and have since been living in great hardship on the outskirts of Diffa.
In order to provide a lasting solution to the problem of access to water in this area, the ICRC is carrying out high-capacity electric drilling in Ngouba, in Bosso department. As a result, the water needs of some 12,000 people - residents and displaced alike - in Bosso, Toumour, Ngouba and nearby villages will be covered.
"The influx of displaced people in the Diffa area puts further pressure on an area already very disadvantaged by harsh natural conditions and a climate that is not conducive to farming," said Jean-Nicolas Marti, head of the ICRC delegation in Niger. The banks of Lake Chad, where much of the farming in the area takes place, could suffer flooding as they did last year and once again experience a disruption of the fragile balance that enables people in this area to survive.