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UNHCR outraged at killing of 100 civilians in Niger attacks, hundreds flee on foot

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UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, condemns in the strongest terms the twin attacks in western Niger that killed at least 100 people, injured 25 others, and forced hundreds to flee on 2 January.

Armed groups mounted coordinated attacks on the villages of Tchamo-Bangou and Zaroumdareye, in Niger’s Tillaberi region near the border with Mali. Some of the injured were evacuated to Ouallam and Niamey, 80 and 120 kilometres away respectively.

“We express our deepest condolences to the families of the victims of these outrageous attacks on peaceful communities,” said UNHCR’s Representative in Niger, Alessandra Morelli. “Communities which are now torn apart by brutality and forced to flee in a region where tens of thousands of people displaced by violence are hosted and hoping to rebuild their lives.”

According to local sources, the survivors of the attacks and the population of four other neighbouring villages have fled. At least 1,000 people are now on the move, trying to reach Ouallam. Many are making the journey on foot.

In Ouallam, UNHCR and its partners are already providing humanitarian assistance to refugees, internally displaced people, and the vulnerable among their hosts.

“We are preparing to assist the people with essential care, shelter, and protection, but also psychological support to help them overcome the horror they have experienced” said Morelli.

UNHCR and Niger authorities are exploring ways to increase the reception capacities in Ouallam.

Niger’s Tillaberi and Tahoua regions, located near Liptako-Gourma which borders Burkina Faso and Mali, currently host 60,000 Malian refugees and nearly 4,000 who fled Burkina Faso. It also hosts 138,229 internally displaced Nigeriens, a number that increased by 77 per cent in 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic is complicating the humanitarian response.

Despite increased insecurity, Nigeriens continue to show their generosity to people fleeing violence in Africa’s Sahel and Lake Chad regions.

Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mali in the Sahel are at the epicentre of one of the world’s fastest-growing displacement and protection crises. The region is already hosting 851,000 refugees and nearly two million displaced inside their own country.

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