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More than 30,000 refugees flee violence in northwestern Nigeria in last two months alone

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A family displaced by violence within Burkina Faso finds shelter with relatives after fleeing violence in May 2019. Such movements are happening all across the Sahel © UNHCR/Romain Desclous

By Sélim Meddeb Hamrouni

Growing insecurity forces thousands, mainly women and children, to seek safety in neighbouring Niger.

More than 30,000 Nigerian refugees have arrived in Niger's Maradi region during the past two months alone, tripling the number who have fled there since last year.

They are fleeing growing insecurity and atrocities across north-western Nigeria most of it at the hands of armed gangs that rob, loot, rape and kill.

The latest population movement was triggered by an extremely violent attack on the village of Gangara.

As soon as they heard the first gunshots, Habsou and her younger sister Mariama* grabbed their children and ran for their lives.

Mariama was heavily pregnant. Childbirth was triggered by running away, stress and fear. She died but her child initially survived.

Habsou managed to carry the newborn baby all the way to Niger. But he too died a few days later.

  • Read Habsou and Mariama's full story here

Nigerian "bandits" also regularly enter Niger to steal cattle. They don't hesitate to kill when they think it is necessary. Despite the presence of the army, the border area is not safe.

UNHCR is currently organising the relocation of some of the refugees to "villages of opportunity", more than 20 km away from the border.

An estimated 30,000 refugees have fled extreme violence in northwestern Nigeria since April, according to the UN. As a result, the number of refugees fleeing to Niger has nearly tripled from last year and we are still only half-way through 2020. Most of the people fleeing are women and children.

UNHCR is extremely concerned about the deteriorating situation. Those fleeing speak of extreme violence unleashed against civilians.

The refugees from Nigeria were allowed to seek protection in Niger despite border closures due to COVID-19. Now, UNHCR is working closely with authorities in Niger to relocate at least 11,000 refugees to safety and provide water, food, shelter, access to health and other essential support.

  • Names changed for protection reasonsmen and children, to seek safety in neighbouring Niger.*