Niger continues to have significant humanitarian needs due to food shortages, undernourishment in children, epidemics and the increase in the number of displaced persons, either as refugees or from Niger itself, who have been hit by the crises ravaging Burkina Faso, Mali, the Lake Chad region and north-west Nigeria. Violence spills over from neighbouring countries into Niger's cross-border regions. More recently, exceptional floods have severely impacted Niger. Getting humanitarian aid to vulnerable people remains a challenge.
What are the needs?
More than 3.7 million people are in need of humanitarian aid in Niger, which is the last-ranking country in the Human Development Index. Many in Niger suffer from food shortages. The availability of food becomes even scarcer between harvests. There is an emergency level of severe acute malnutrition affecting children under the age of 5 across the country.
The consequences of armed group violence in neighbouring Burkina Faso, Mali and Nigeria are worsening the humanitarian situation in Niger. As of the end of August 2020, the Niger regions of Diffa, Maradi, Tahoua and Tillabéri host more than 228,800 refugees, not to mention 265,520 Nigeriens who have been displaced (UNHCR). These people depend on humanitarian aid for their survival. In some of these regions, the state of emergency has disrupted people’s livelihoods and their access to basic social services.
Access to those in need of humanitarian assistance is still adversely affected by measures imposed by the Nigerien authorities requiring the use of armed escorts. The situation has been as such since October 2019 in some areas of Tillabéri region. Humanitarian organisations still unanimously refuse to use such operation modalities out of respect for the humanitarian principles (in particular, neutrality in any armed conflict) which govern the distribution of aid.
Since July, exceptional floods have had an impact on more than 500,000 people in the whole country. There are urgent needs in terms of shelter, food and other basic essentials. Assistance for recovery is needed not only for the people who have lost their homes but also for those whose crops and livestock have been washed away.
How are we helping?
The European Union (EU) is one of the leading humanitarian donors in Niger, providing emergency and life-saving aid to people in need. In 2020, the EU has provided €30.1 million in emergency aid in conflict-stricken areas and regions affected by epidemics, widespread food shortages and high undernourishment rates among children.
EU funding in Niger focuses primarily on covering basic needs, including food, shelter, health and nutritional care, access to water, protection and education of vulnerable people affected by conflict (such as victims of gender-based violence, unaccompanied children and disabled people), natural hazards or epidemics such as coronavirus. Given that conflict-driven humanitarian crises escalate rapidly, the EU also supports organisations in responding quickly to meet the basic needs of vulnerable people.
In 2020, the EU is also financing NGOs which provide medical care in vulnerable areas and ensure continuity of health care through activities aiming at reducing the risks of the coronavirus pandemic spreading. This is achieved, in particular, by consolidating infection prevention and control measures implemented in healthcare institutions, training healthcare professionals to identify and manage suspected cases, improving access to water and a hygienic environment in healthcare institutions, and raising awareness about the prevention measures through radio spots and in communities.
The EU also finances actions to provide schooling for children during humanitarian crises and protection interventions aimed at mitigating the impact of the armed conflict and its consequences on the most vulnerable people.
In addition, the EU provides support to strengthen the state of preparedness of communities and authorities in responding to recurrent emergencies, particularly food and nutritional crises, natural hazards and population displacement.
In light of the volatile security situation in Niger, the EU continues to advocate for a safe working environment for humanitarian workers, where respect for humanitarian principles and for International Humanitarian Law provides the basis for the humanitarian agenda and response.