Red Cross steps up response in Niger as health conditions deteriorate
NAIROBI, Kenya, April 18, 2018–The rising number of people fleeing conflict and the arrival of thousands of migrants are overwhelming public health facilities in Niger, putting scores of families at risk – including tens of thousands of malnourished children.
More than 400,000 people – including some 160,000 children suffering from malnutrition – are now in need of emergency health services in Niger’s Diffa region.
“Migrants living in Niger are very vulnerable and require a lot of support in many areas,” said Dr Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, Regional Director for Africa at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) “Unfortunately, they arrive in poverty-stricken areas where communities lack almost everything; increasing the risk of tensions between local people and migrants. There is a need to strike a balance between providing humanitarian support to migrants and responding to the needs of local people who host migrants within their communities.”
Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world. The Human Development Index ranks it 187th out of 188 countries. Over the last five years, the Diffa region in the West African country has experienced an unprecedented and complex humanitarian crisis. Compounding this poverty, and because of it, recurrent violence has uprooted hundreds of thousands of civilians. Many people have been forced to flee multiple times and have been left destitute, with few possessions and no means to sustain their lives and those of their families.
Niger’s humanitarian challenges are made worse because the country is part of a key migratory route for thousands of Africans who continue to make the perilous journey to reach Europe in hopes of a better life. The continued influx of migrants has put pressure on health facilities, reducing access to primary health care and referrals for both displaced and host populations.
In addition to hosting thousands of migrants and asylum seekers from neighbouring countries, there are locally displaced people in the country. The situation has further deteriorated because of recent droughts, that have caused food insecurity.
“Nutritional support, as well as health, water and sanitation services are the most urgent needs. Malnutrition in the Diffa region has reached serious emergency levels”, said Ali Bandiare, President of the Red Cross Society of Niger.
IFRC is appealing for 1.6 million Swiss francs to strengthen the Niger Red Cross’s humanitarian response to save lives and reduce the suffering of tens of thousands of people. The emergency appeal will allow Red Cross staff and volunteers to provide awareness sessions, malnutrition screening and referral, community-based disease surveillance, water and sanitation, as well as maternal and neonatal health services to more than 43,000 people (over 6,100 families) in three districts of the Diffa region.