Niger: The Last Hours Of Peace For Nigerian Refugees

World Food Programme Communication Officer Marco Frattini witnessed the last peaceful hours of Bosso, Niger, at the border with Nigeria, only a day before the communities in the area were attacked by armed militants from Nigeria. Despite the difficult circumstances, the local communities have shown tolerance towards and solidarity with the Nigerian refugees who have been fleeing from the recent escalation of violence. As WFP food assistance continues despite the extremely dangerous security situation, this report brings to our attention the mixed emotions of both refugees and local communities in a "calm before the storm" atmosphere.

Emergency Background

Violence by armed militants in Northern Nigeria is forcing large numbers of people to flee into neighbouring countries, putting more pressure on already-strained communities and services in poor areas of Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

Niger has the highest number of refugees and returnees of the three countries. The second half of 2014 saw a major increase of new arrivals in the Diffa region.

In October, only 15,000 people crossed the border. Now, there are more than 125,000 people across over 140 sites and villages.

WFP has gradually increased its food assistance last year and by December 2014, it was providing food to over 60,000 refugees, returnees and host families. 

Entering Bosso: War Clouds On The Horizon


BOSSO - Troops from both Chad and Niger are patrolling the border with Nigeria. The next morning (6 February), the day after our visit, Bosso was attacked by armed militants from northern Nigeria.

Same Problems But Double The Population

   
BOSSO - The village already had more than 10,000 people, and is now home to thousands of refugees from Nigeria who have been finding shelter there. This has been placing enormous pressure on the local communities' livelihoods and food stocks. The refugees are forced to live under difficult circumstances, in makeshift shelters close to the village. 

When Solidarity Strengthens Hope

          

BOSSO - Thanks to the hospitality and generosity of the local communities, the atmosphere inside the camps conveys a sense of hope.

Assisting Thousands Of Refugees


 

          

GUESSERE - The total estimated number of refugees now stands at 125,000 people, spread out over more than 140 sites and villages. One of these sites is a village called Guessere where WFP distributes food to refugees and host communities who are food insecure. Children under 5 years of age, pregnant and lactating women receive what we call Supercereal, a very nutritious food that helps reduce the risk of malnutrition.

Fanna's Escape

    
SAYAM FORAGE REFUGEE CAMP - The camp has recently opened. At the moment, there are 700 refugees from Nigeria living in the camp. They all receive food from WFP. I was there interviewing Fanna, when the news arrived. Antonio, my friend and colleague, came to me and told me that Bosso was under attack and that we had to run back to our Diffa Office, so we did.

Fleeing back to Diffa


 

SAYAM FORAGE REFUGEE CAMP - I have a feeling of guilt that I can’t get rid of, not knowing the status of the people I met and filmed in Bosso. "As soon as things calm down we will go look for them," Antonio tells me.... I’m sure he will.