DAKAR / NEW YORK, 5 January 2021 – ”I am deeply troubled by the horrific attacks this past Saturday perpetrated by non-state armed groups against civilians in the Nigerien villages of Tchoma Bangou and Zaroumadareye, close to the border with Mali. According to unofficial sources, at least 100 people were killed, including 17 children.
“Unconfirmed reports indicate that all of the children who lost their lives – 10 boys and 7 girls – were under the age of 16. Some were apparently burnt to death.
“An unknown number of surviving children sustained serious injuries in the violence, while many more have now been displaced from their communities. At least 11 children have been separated from their families.
“These terrible events follow another brutal attack last December in Toumour, in Niger’s Diffa region, that left 45 people dead including 10 children. That attack destroyed vital food stocks, water infrastructure and two classrooms, affecting nearly 21,000 people.
“Such wanton violence and disregard for the lives of children and families must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. These heinous acts are grave violations of children’s rights and of international humanitarian and human rights law. UNICEF calls for the immediate cessation of attacks against children, their families and communities.
“We also express our deepest sympathies to the victims’ families and reaffirm UNICEF’s support for children and families across Niger. UNICEF stands ready to support the Government of Niger in assisting survivors and affected populations, and in protecting the rights of all children.”
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 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.