Over the last few days, more than 200 families from Nigeria and Chad have arrived in the town of Toumour, located in the eastern Diffa region of Niger, after fleeing violence and hunger in their hometowns. Most of the new arrivals are women and children. According to their testimonies, they walked for four to five days to reach Toumour, traveling only at night for fear of being attacked by the Boko Haram, an extremist group active in the area, or detained by the army.
Many of the new arrivals are now hosted by the local population, many of whom are displaced persons and refugees themselves who continue to show great solidarity with the new waves of displaced people by sharing the limited resources they have. Despite this support, 77 of the families newly arrived in Toumour live in very poor conditions, without enough food or basic living materials. To alleviate this situation, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) distributes domestic items, blankets, mosquito nets, and hygienic kits to the families in need.
Djoumai Tchaiman, 28 years old, was one of the refugees who received an aid kit. “I come from Lake Chad, on the border between Nigeria, Chad and Niger,” she says. “We had been wanting to leave there for a long time due to the insecurity but we couldn’t because we didn’t know where Boko Haram might be. We took the opportunity to flee when there were problems between them and they were going to fight near our village. It was 8:00 p.m. After four days walking, we arrived in Toumour—me, my five children, my husband, and my parents-in-law. Unfortunately, when we arrived my husband was arrested by the military as a suspect. Right now, I don’t know where he is.”
With the arrival of the new refugees, the number of medical consultations linked to fatigue and stress at the MSF-supported health center in Toumour have increased—long days of walking with the fear of being attacked or arrested have taken a heavy toll. MSF also strengthened the nutritional supplementation for newly displaced children under five years old and their families.
New Refugees Continue to Arrive
In addition to these 200 families, small groups of refugees continue to arrive in Toumour. Although many aid organizations left the area after attacks took place last June in Bosso District, where Toumour is located, the town still has several services in place including water points and a health center where medical attention is free for the entire population. The main problem newly arrived refugees face is access to food. Although there is a food market in the area, many displaced people have no money to purchase what they need.
“Given the critical situation in the areas of Nigeria and Chad bordering with Niger, it is likely that Toumour will continue to receive more refugees, and in such a precarious condition as this last group,” explains Youssouf Demdelé, MSF deputy head of mission in Niger. “The population has not been able to grow their own food and is dependent on food distributions. In addition, we are in the middle of the malaria season. There are several humanitarian agencies working in Diffa but there are still areas where more help is needed.”
MSF has been working in the Diffa region since December 2014. To improve health care for the local and displaced population, MSF works alongside the Ministry of Health in the main maternal and pediatric health center in the city of Diffa, in the district hospital in Nguigmi, and in several centers in the districts of Diffa, Nguigmi, and Bosso. MSF also provides assistance in Assaga, GarinWanzam, and Kintchandi, where thousands of displaced people have settled. In 2015, MSF conducted more than 142,000 medical consultations in the region.