A spate of attacks by Boko Haram in southeastern Niger in recent months is hindering the delivery of aid to over 200,000 people forced from their homes, aid agencies said on Thursday.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Niger’s Diffa region is hosting around 220,000 displaced people split almost evenly between uprooted Nigeriens and Nigerian refugees.
The region has been targeted around 15 times since September in attacks blamed on Boko Haram, causing thousands more to flee and restricting access to those in need of aid.
Boko Haram militants have killed about 15,000 people and displaced some 2.6 million in Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria during a seven-year campaign to carve out an Islamist caliphate.
The Islamist group still launches deadly attacks in spite of having been driven out of much of the territory it held in 2014.
Geoffrey Denye, a spokesman for aid group World Vision, said on phone from Chad that the humanitarian situation is really dire and deteriorating.
“The displaced are getting harder to reach and humanitarians are required to take more risks to provide aid due to the insecurity,’’ Denye lamented.
Several aid agencies said the military had restricted humanitarian access to areas around the town of Bosso, where 32 soldiers were killed in June by Boko Haram in the militant group’ deadliest attack in Niger since April 2015.
Along with Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria and Benin, Niger has contributed troops to 9,000-strong regional task force dedicated to fighting the group.
Among the recent attacks in Diffa, supplies and essential medicines have been looted from health facilities.
According to medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), Niger programme manager for MSF, Mari Carmen Viñoles, this could scare local health workers and deter from working in the region.
“On the whole, the aid response is not as effective as it should be.
“There is a problem around coordination, while different responsibilities of various humanitarian actors are not clear,’’ Viñoles added.
“It is a challenge for humanitarian organisations,’’ he added.
Some of the displaced are in refugee camps, others live in makeshift huts along Niger’s main highway, but most are dotted across than 100 villages and informal sites.