The International Rescue Committee is providing emergency assistance to more than half of the 14,000 people who fled the town of Damasak in northeastern Nigeria after it was attacked by insurgents last week. For many, this is the second time they have fled Damasak, which was held by the militants from November 2014 until it was retaken by regional forces in March.
The refugees join approximately 20,000 uprooted Nigerians who have already found shelter just across the border in Niger’s arid Diffa region. Most of those fleeing the latest waves of violence are women, children and older people who fled on foot to reach safety in the villages of Chetimari and Gagamari in Diffa.
One woman helped by the IRC after she arrived in Diffa last week is eight months pregnant. She said she ran from Damasak after her husband was killed during the attacks and her eldest daughters — just 10 and 13 — were abducted by the militants. IRC aid workers will follow up with her to provide support during her pregnancy.
Many Diffa residents have been sharing their scarce food and water supplies with the refugees. Some of the new arrivals are staying with the same families who assisted them last year, while others have had no choice but to sleep in makeshift shelters or out in the open.
Some 150,000 Nigerians have fled to Niger since 2013. In all, more than 1.5 million people have been displaced by the ongoing violence. The IRC is one of the few aid agencies responding with humanitarian assistance on both sides of the border.