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NIGERIAN refugees who have fled to Niger to escape the ongoing Boko Haram insurgency need urgent assistance, reports children’s charity Plan International.
An estimated 10,000 people have arrived in 17 villages around the islands of Lake Chad over the past six weeks, according to the International Refugee Council.
It is expected that the refugee population will reach 100,000 by the end of this year as Boko Haram gain ground, including in Borno State, from where more than 272 schoolgirls were abducted in April.
Aid workers from Plan are preparing to visit the Diffa area of Niger, where many of the refugees are living, to assess the needs of the host and refugee populations.
“There are no formal camps in the area so many refugees are living amongst the local population, who are having to share their already depleted resources,” says Johnson Bien-Aime, Plan’s Country Director in Niger.
“Despite the significant presence of partners, there are enormous challenges including providing food, health, water, sanitation and hygiene and education,” he adds.
Plan has already been working with UNICEF and the UNHCR to look in more detail at the primary needs.
It is thought around £180,000 ($300,000US) will be needed to fund aid operations in the area.
“Refugees and Internally Displaced People (IDPs) are the most vulnerable groups in humanitarian crises and require protection and assistance especially for the most vulnerable,” says Mr Bien-Aime.
“The Nigerian refugees in Diffa need immediate assistance in terms of shelter, food and nutrition. Other priorities are health services, clean water, sanitation and general hygiene.
“Education and psychosocial support in the refugee settlement sites is increasingly important,” he adds.