In Niger, IOM seeks to provide lifesaving assistance to crisis-affected populations in the southern regions of Niger, vulnerable Nigerien migrants in need of support within Niger or stranded abroad, as well as to foreign migrants who are stranded in Niger and have expressed the desire to return to their countries of origin, complemented by peacebuilding and social cohesion efforts to promote stability and peaceful coexistence between host communities, IDPs and migrants. IOM envisions to scale up its current levels of assistance in areas that have been affected by crisis, including natural disasters and armed conflict, and supports the enhanced resilience of communities to withstand future shocks.
Niger continues to face multiple crises: the Central Sahel crisis originating from Mali affecting the Tillabery and Tahoua regions in the West, the Lake Chad Basin crisis which continues to generate displacements in the Diffa region due to the insurgency of Boko Haram and other Non-State Armed Groups (NSAG), and the influx of refugees and internally displaced persons in the border regions of Maradi and in the Tahoua due to continuing instability in northern Nigeria. 2020 was marked by unprecedented levels of violence (1,114 reported casualties due to violent incidents, including NSAG attacks on civilians, riots, and military operations according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) dashboard) and the COVID-19 pandemic. These two events together have posed extreme challenges to the already limited resources available to the Government of Niger. Despite the official closure of land borders since 19 March 2020, foreign and Nigerien migrants continue to travel to, through and out of Niger towards Libya and Algeria. In addition, IOM has observed an increasing trend of non-Nigerien migrants that are expelled from Algeria to Niger. These migrants, including women and children, are transported to ‘Point Zero’ in the Nigerien desert, fifteen kilometres away from the nearest town. IOM conducts humanitarian rescue operations to save these migrants and provides basic humanitarian assistance, as well as support with the return to their country of origin.
The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to compound further in 2021 and continuous preventive measures, including sites for mandatory isolation and infection prevention and control (IPC) actions will be necessary to prevent the spread of the virus. Without any indication that the security situation will improve and the risk of potential civil unrest as a result of the second round of presidential elections in early 2021, the situation remains dire and extremely worrisome. The situation in the Tillabery and Diffa regions, where most of the violence is concentrated, is specifically critical. While there are many immediate humanitarian needs, both Nigerien policymakers and the international community have recognized, most notably during the recent high-level meeting on the Central Sahel on 20 October 2020, that many of these are derived from a chronic, structural lack of development and governance issues, hence the importance to address the needs along with the humanitarian-development-peace nexus, simultaneously tackling immediate, lifesaving needs and structural drivers of instability.
The Humanitarian Needs Overview indicates that 3.8 million individuals are in need of cross-sectoral assistance in 2021. IOM Niger identifies three key priorities for its crisis response in 2021: first, the lack of formal displacement sites, with limited livelihood capacities and access to basic services, places 571,509 individuals, both IDPs and host communities, at risk. Second, partly as a result of continuous expulsions from Algeria and migratory movements in northern Niger to/from Algeria and Libya, IOM Niger foresees 135,296 migrants stranded in Niger, who will be in need of shelter, food, health, water and movement assistance in 2021. The third priority is promoting peaceful coexistence between IDPs, migrants, refugees, and host communities.