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New UN aid chief calls for sustained international support for the most vulnerable people in Niger

At the end of a three-day visit to Niger, the new United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, today commended the Government of Niger for tackling the country’s complex humanitarian crisis, including leading the provision of life-saving aid to 400,000 people in the Diffa region, where one out of two people require humanitarian assistance and Boko Haram attacks remain a grave threat.

“I was impressed to see how brave aid workers are working with the Government to deliver assistance to the most vulnerable people in Niger under difficult and dangerous circumstances,” said Mr. Lowcock.

“The scale-up in humanitarian support in Niger in recent years has been effective,” he said. “We have reached millions of people, unquestionably saving lives and averting the worst. But humanitarian needs remain high and sustained international help behind Niger’s efforts is critical.”

Mr. Lowcock visited N’Gagam, a village in the Diffa region about 50km from the regional capital. Near the border with Nigeria, N’Gagam had a pre-crisis population of 1,000 but now hosts 13,500 people from both Niger and Nigeria whose homes were destroyed or villages are considered too dangerous to return to. Most of the 250,000 displaced people in Diffa live in 140 informal settlements, alongside vulnerable communities, which are feeling the strain of this large influx.

“A 30-year-old woman named Achaitou, who fled Nigeria to N’Gagam with her four young children, told me how she survives with help from the UN and partners. Despite daily struggles, she maintains her dignity and retains hope for a better future for her children. But she remains terrified of violence by armed groups and often takes her children into the bush at night, risking disease and snake bites,” Mr. Lowcock said.

“Achaitou told me she would return home – if it was safe. I heard repeatedly in N’Gagam that the international community should help bring security to the region. That is one of the messages I will bring to world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly next week.”

“The Government and people of Niger have shown enormous generosity and humanity in hosting refugees and IDPs fleeing violence – not only in the Lake Chad Basin but also in the west, where people have fled insecurity in Mali,” Mr. Lowcock said. Niger has been an active international partner in efforts to address the crises in both the Lake Chad Basin and the Sahel.

In Niger, Mr. Lowcock also held meetings with the United Nations, international non-governmental organizations, and the diplomatic community, in addition to meetings with Government officials, including Prime Minister Brigi Rafini and Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management Laouan Magagi, who accompanied him to Diffa.

“Niger has done so much right, but faces enormous challenges,” Mr. Lowcock said. “Like other countries across the Sahel, it grapples with insecurity, climatic shocks, extreme poverty and the lack of basic services and infrastructure. Together with our humanitarian efforts, Niger needs increased support from development partners, especially to educate its young population and enable them to get jobs. We must tackle the root causes of the crisis alongside the immediate priority of saving lives and protecting people.”

Distributed by APO on behalf of Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
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