Thousands flee Boko Haram attack on Niger town
Recent attacks by militants have driven some 50,000 people from their homes in Bosso, a town in the country’s troubled Diffa region.
By: Louise Donovan
NIAMEY, Niger, June 7 (UNHCR) - Tens of thousands of people have fled their homes in south-east Niger following a series of attacks in recent days by Boko Haram insurgents on the town of Bosso in the troubled Diffa region, the UN Refugee Agency said today.
The attacks occurred on Friday, Sunday and Monday (June 3, 5 and 6). As of today (June 7) the situation in Bosso is unclear. UNHCR warned last month that the security and humanitarian situation was worsening in the Diffa Region.
“We have not been working directly in Bosso since February 2015, when the insurgency spread from Nigeria to Niger, but we operate through local implementing partners to deliver help,” UN spokesperson Adrian Edwards told a news briefing in Geneva.
Edwards said that the Refugee Agency is working with the authorities and partners on a coordinated response to the displacement. A UNHCR emergency team will be deployed to the Diffa region this week.
The most recent attacks follow rising violence in and around Bosso in recent weeks. An assault on May 31 in the nearby town of Yebi that killed nine people and forced an estimated 15,000 residents and displaced people to seek shelter in Bosso. Many had been evacuated a year ago from islands in Lake Chad for security reasons.
An estimated 50,000 people fled Friday’s attack, mainly walking westwards to Toumour, some 30 kilometres west of Bosso. Many people are traumatized and worried about their safety. People are sleeping in the open and urgently need shelter and other assistance.
Some of the displaced have moved on from Toumour and are heading to the town of Diffa, which is located 140 kilometres west of Bosso, and northwards towards Kabelawa where a camp for the internally displaced is near capacity with some 10,000 people.
“The welfare of these people and others forced to flee the violence in Bosso is of great concern,” Edwards told reporters at the briefing. “Insecurity and lack of access have long hampered humanitarian operations in parts of the Diffa region, though Bosso is the only area where we do not implement projects directly,” he added.
There are at least 240,000 displaced people in Diffa Region, including Nigerian refugees, returnees and the internally displaced. Before the latest attack on Bosso, one in every three inhabitants of the Diffa region was forcibly displaced.
Since February last year, UNHCR has been providing protection and assistance to the displaced in Bosso through local and international NGO partners.
Edwards stressed that additional support from the donor community is urgently required. “This is a desperately poor area where the general insecurity has destroyed the socio-economic fabric. The self-reliance capacity of the displaced and their hosts is extremely limited,” he said.
The attacks on Bosso came just ahead of the start of a high-level meeting from Monday to Wednesday in Abuja to discuss the major protection challenges in the Lake Chad basin, including Niger.
Organized by the Nigerian government, with technical support from UNHCR, the dialogue participants include senior officials from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger.