Niger, 29 August 2023 — The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has joined 44 local and international humanitarian agencies working in Niger to call for humanitarian exemptions to the collective sanctions imposed against the country. These exemptions by the international community are vital to ensure uninterrupted access to humanitarian assistance services for vulnerable populations, particularly children, in Niger.
According to the 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), over 4.3 million people in Niger are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. Among them, more than 700,000 individuals require urgent aid, including internally displaced persons, refugees, and asylum seekers. Despite these pressing needs, humanitarian actors are facing severe obstacles to delivering essential goods to the populations in Niger.
The 44 signatories to the recommendations include the IRC, Care, Danish Refugee Council, Norwegian Refugee Council, Oxfam, Save the Children and World Vision.
Separately, as EU states’ foreign affairs ministers meet in Toledo on Thursday, the IRC urges them to consider including a humanitarian exemption from the onset of the design of any forthcoming new EU autonomous collective sanctions on Niger.
Paolo Cernuschi, IRC Niger Country Director, said:
"The clock is ticking, and the lives of Nigerien children are hanging in the balance. Without swift action to implement humanitarian exemptions, we risk losing the battle against malnutrition and preventable diseases.
“Currently, stocks of vital supplies, such as nutritional aid and medical provisions, are held up at the borders due to sanctions. In a nation where acute malnutrition rates are alarmingly high, these delays could prove catastrophic. If humanitarian exemptions allowing the entry of essential supplies are not adopted by September 1, 2023, the ability to provide life-saving treatments to malnourished children is at risk.
“The impact of sanctions also extends to food security. 13% of Niger's population faces severe food insecurity, exacerbated by the compounding effects of conflict, drought, and inflation caused by sanctions. Cash transfers to affected populations are hindered by the cash shortages of the past month.
“Furthermore, education for children is at risk. If sanctions persist, only a fraction of children's educational needs can be met, exposing them to potential dropouts, exploitation, and recruitment into armed groups. Humanitarian exemptions will allow required educational materials to be supplied to schools.
“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."
The IRC and its partner NGOs strongly support the call of the Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator to implement necessary amendments to the sanctions. Specifically, they urge for unimpeded and timely delivery of aid, authorisation of essential transactions, legal protection for humanitarian actors, and a review of sanctions' impact to ensure no harm is done to the vulnerable populations in Niger.