Kelou feeds her son Bidi 16 month-old son, Bidi.
Kelou Kiari, a 25-year-old mother displaced from Ka’aree Village, feeding her son Bidi 16 months old.
Photo: Mamadou Diop for the IRC

In July of 2023, Niger experienced a coup that shook its political landscape.  Military officers ousted the elected government, leading to instability and uncertainty for its people. 

The international community responded with sanctions intended to pressure the new leadership to restore democratic governance and uphold the rule of law. However, the impact of these sanctions has reverberated beyond politics, as vital humanitarian supplies–including nutritional aid and medical provisions–are held up at the border, the lives of over 4 million people hang in the balance.  

Read on to learn about how the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is providing vital aid and joining 43 local and international humanitarian organizations to ask for critical humanitarian exceptions to the sanctions.

Humanitarian aid blocked by border closures

A severe consequence of the ongoing instability is the obstruction of humanitarian aid. With border closures impeding access, life-saving assistance struggles to reach those in need.

"Currently, stocks of vital supplies, such as nutritional aid and medical provisions, are held up at the borders due to sanctions," said Cernuschi. Given the alarming prevalence of acute malnutrition in the nation, these delays could result in catastrophic consequences. 

IRC staff, members of ANJE group and mothers talking about how to prevent malnutrition at Awaridi refugee camp.
IRC staff, members of ANJE group and mothers talking about how to prevent malnutrition at Awaridi refugee camp.
Photo: Mamadou Diop for the IRC

Food insecurity deepens as supplies dwindle

Over 3 million Nigeriens were already grappling with food insecurity prior to the coup, and their situation has only become more uncertain. Food supplies and essentials have become scarcer, as the country grapples with the compounding impacts of drought, conflict and inflation stemming from the sanctions.  Children facing malnutrition are particularly at risk. 

"The clock is ticking, and the lives of Nigerian children are hanging in the balance," warned Paolo Cernuschi, IRC Niger Country Director. "Without swift action to implement humanitarian exemptions, we risk losing the battle against malnutrition and preventable diseases."

Fandaou Karam sits with the condiments she's selling in front of her.
Fandaou Karam, President of ANJE group at Awaridi refugee camp, selling condiments recommended for the excellent nutrition of children.
Photo: Mamadou Diop for the IRC

In addition to in-kind aid, cash shortages have made it difficult to provide cash transfers to affected populations, negatively impacting their economic stability.

Livelihoods in peril  

The coup's repercussions aren't limited to politics; they have filtered into regional trade, impacting livelihoods. Farmers, traders and workers are left reeling as trade routes face disruptions.  Countless families are grappling with economic instability. 

In addition, the education of children is in jeopardy. If sanctions persist, only a fraction of children's educational needs can be met, increasing the likelihood they will dropout and putting them at risk of exploitation and recruitment by armed groups. The introduction of humanitarian exemptions would enable schools to access essential educational materials.

Maryama sits with two friends at a desk in class.
Maryama Alhaji Kiari, a 15-year old girl living in Dubai, a community in the Diffa region of Niger with her friends in class.
Photo: Mamadou Diop for the IRC

The IRC's resolute response

“We have a moral duty to act swiftly and decisively. Lives are at stake, and we cannot allow bureaucratic barriers to stand in the way of saving them”, said Cernuschi

The IRC, together with local and international humanitarian agencies, is calling on the global community to introduce humanitarian exemptions to the sanctions imposed on Niger. These exemptions are a lifeline for vulnerable populations, especially children.

As people grapple with food insecurity, loss of livelihoods, and displacement, the IRC is taking action by distributing cash funding and vouchers to over 1,000 displaced households. We are also providing essential supplies like school kits and mosquito nets to safeguard against malaria.