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Uprooted family in Niger and their makeshift shelter of  tree branches and cloth
Conflict and hunger


The International Rescue Committee provides vital support to Nigerian and Malian refugees fleeing violent conflicts, to Nigerien returnees and internally displaced persons, and to overstretched host communities.

Country facts
  • Total population: 17 million
  • People displaced by crisis: 291,000
  • Rank in Human Development Index: 188 of 188
IRC response
  • Started work in Niger: 2013

Niger crisis briefing

Niger, a landlocked country in West Africa, is prone to political instability, chronic food insecurity and natural crises. The IRC helps vulnerable Nigeriens meet urgent needs and provides support to refugees uprooted by violence in neighboring countries.

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What caused the current crisis in Niger?

Since the 1980s, Niger has been ranked at the bottom of the Human Development Index. The country continues to be plagued by political instability, natural crises and disease outbreaks. Frequent droughts and floods leave farmers struggling to feed millions; over half the population requires food assistance.

In addition to these challenges, Niger regularly absorbs influxes of refugees from neighboring countries, including Mali and Nigeria.

Almost 200,000 people fleeing from militant group Boko Haram now live in makeshift camps in Niger's Diffa Region. Recently, Boko Haram attacks in Niger have forced thousands of Nigeriens to flee their villages to seek refuge in larger towns.

What are the main humanitarian challenges in Niger?

With one of the highest fertility rates in the world and refugees continuing to cross the border, basic resources such as food and water are dwindling in Niger. A new period of drought threatens to leave 2.5 million people without enough food, according to the United Nations.

Fewer than 5% of refugees live in camps; most reside with host families or in dangerous shelters, where the delivery of aid is not consistent. Malnutrition remains a chronic issue and many children do not have access to education.  

As violence continues to spread across the region, people live in fear and uncertainty, forced to keep moving in search of safety and resources. In many areas, displaced people struggle to survive without any help.

How does the IRC help in Niger?

We first began assisting Nigeriens in 2013, providing emergency and protection assistance to refugees and returning Nigeriens. Despite increased violence at the border, the IRC continues to work with local communities and support those in need.

As the country struggles to recover from natural disasters and to support an influx of refugees from neighboring countries, the IRC is focusing our efforts in the Diffa, Tillaberi and Tahoua regions by:

  • providing essential equipment and medicine to local health care centers;
  • ensuring the welfare of refugees through child-protection and prevention of violence against women
  • screening and treating severely malnourished children and offering training in nutrition and hygiene;
  • digging wells to irrigate crops;
  • providing rapid-response emergency relief for Nigerian refugees and Nigeriens affected by crisis;
  • building classrooms and training teachers to support refugees and local children affected by violence and poverty;
  • operating programs that provide cash transfers, food vouchers and agricultural support to vulnerable families.

Get updates from the IRC's Niger country director Matias Meier on Twitter.  Read an article by Meier on the innovative use of an adaptive programming approach in the Diffa region.

What still needs to be done?

The violent seven-year conflict originating in Nigeria has intensified in the last several years and spread across borders into Niger, Chad and Cameroon, causing a growing humanitarian crisis in a region known as the Lake Chad Basin. Read recommendations from the IRC and other aid groups working in the region in our Sep 2016 policy paper: "Lake Chad's unseen crisis." 


Download the IRC's Niger strategy action plan to learn more about our program priorities through 2020.

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