More than 2.1 million children in Niger will need humanitarian assistance this year alone as the western African nation is being battered by a storm of conflict, droughts and diseases, the UN children’s rights agency UNICEF said on Friday.
“In 2021, 3.8 million people, including 2.1 million children, will need humanitarian assistance in Niger. Many of those in need are in hard-to-reach areas with limited humanitarian access,” a report read.
The 20-page “Suffering in Silence” report said the number of children in need rose 30% compared to last year, while insecurity in Niger and neighboring countries and travel restrictions imposed by the government were hampering aid access to conflict- and crisis-affected populations.
The agency estimated that 2.7 million Nigeriens were experiencing food insecurity, with 1.6 million children suffering from malnutrition, 450,000 of them severely. Some 400,000 children have been out of school due to insecurity or natural disasters.
These acute vulnerabilities are being brutally exploited by militants who are recruiting child soldiers.
Boys are also being exploited for work, while girls are at risk of abduction, forced marriage and sexual exploitation, UNICEF said.
The United Nations high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, raised concerns on Friday over the deteriorating humanitarian condition in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, devastated by a conflict between the government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) forces, recommending that Mekelle and Shire airports be opened to enable assistance to those caught in the conflict.
On Monday, the Ethiopian government declared an unconditional ceasefire in the province following the recapture of the regional capital of Mekelle by rebel forces that prompted government forces to retreat.
However, the government’s military have threatened to send troops back into Tigray, underlining the fragility of any current calm in the region.
“The humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate in #Tigray.
To scale up and deliver urgent aid, Mekelle and Shire airports must re-open, communications and electricity must be restored, and safe access must be given to all those in desperate need,” the commissioner wrote on Twitter.
Clashes in the province of Tigray erupted in November after the Ethiopian government accused the local ruling party the Tigray People’s Liberation Front of ambushing a regional army post to hijack weapons and arm anti-government militia.
The Tigray region has been occupied by the Ethiopian military since then, resulting in fighting with the rebels.
An estimated two million of Tigray’s six million people are reported to have fled their homes and an estimated 900,000 people are likely experiencing famine conditions.
In addition, about 33,000 severely malnourished children are projected to face imminent risk of death if more aid is not forthcoming to the people of Tigray.—AFP