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Niger's forgotten refugee crisis

Salifou's family was murdered in front of him. He is now a refugee in Niger.
Salifou's family was murdered in front of him. He is now a refugee in Niger.

While the world has been focused on the refugees and migrants flooding into Europe, there has been another refugee crisis unfolding in The Lake Chad basin area of Africa.

Insecurity and violence caused by a resurgence in militant groups, notably Boko Haram, together with severe drought in the region has displaced some 2.7 million people. The countries affected include Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad.

Families slaughtered

Salifou was just 13 when his family was massacred in front of him in his village in south-eastern Nigeria.

“My parents were farmers. Our father sent us out to get food for our livestock. On our way, we heard screams coming from the neighbourhood. We immediately ran home. As we entered the lawn we met two armed people. My parents were lying dead in a pool of blood. They then turned and fired on us, killing my brothers,” he says.

Traumatised and terrified he fled over the border into Niger. Now 14, he lives with a host family supported by SOS Children's Villages. 

Thousands of children left without homes and families

A Nigerian refugee girl and her brother
Some 63,000 Nigerian children are refugees in Niger
He is one of nearly 2.5 million refugees and internally displaced people who have poured into the Diffa region of Niger since 2013. Some 63,000 are Nigerian children. At least 9,000 of that number are, like Salifou, unaccompanied.

Caused by a combination of deadly attacks by Boko Haram, severe drought and food shortages, the crisis is one of the worst seen in Africa in recent years, yet it is little reported by the world’s media. But it is a crisis that SOS Children’s Villages has not forgotten. We have been running an emergency relief programme in the Diffa region to alleviate the suffering of those forced from their homes since June 2015. We are working with children and families living both in the refugee camps that have sprung up and those staying with local host families.

What are we doing to help?

  • Running four Child-Friendly Spaces. 330 children make use of the spaces every day.
  • Reuniting unaccompanied and separated children with their families. So far, since 2015 we have reunited three children with their families in Nigeria. 
  • Supporting host families and local communities who have taken in refugees. So far, 100 host families have received monthly food packages and cooking kits along with hygiene kits.

Emergency response programme, Niger
Babies are assessed for malnutrition at one of our dedicated health centres for refugees and IDPs in Diffa, Niger
  • Providing educational and psychosocial support to the children making use of our Child-Friendly Spaces. 
  • Giving more than 100 children trauma counselling. 
  • Providing healthcare in specialised facilities to 500 children.
  • Distributing more than 2,000 mosquito nets to vulnerable families. 
  • Treating more than 3,200 malnourished children and women. 
  • Giving nutritional support and food parcels to 700 families. 

You can help care for vulnerable children at risk in emergencies by donating to our work today.

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