Diffa: reflections about resilience

With the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) support, the "Building Resilience in the Sahel" program aims to support vulnerable people in Niger, disproportionately exposed to specific shocks and stresses.

By Ulrich Assankpon
18 November 2020

With the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) support, the " UNICEF-WFP partnership for resilience and social cohesion in the Diffa region " program aims to support vulnerable people, disproportionately exposed to specific shocks and stresses.

Diffa has been recurrently affected by conflict and insecurity, poor access to basic services, poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition, recurrent shocks (climate, economic, etc.), environmental degradation, and demographic pressure. Despite the humanitarian response over the past years has been effective in saving lives and reducing the impact of the deteriorating situation, the need to build long-term approaches that promote resilience and social cohesion has become an urgent necessity for the most vulnerable.

Traveling to Diffa where UNICEF and WFP have active field offices was a unique experience. It was very moving to know first-hand the enormous challenges faced by the population. I had the opportunity to listen to local partners such as youths, civil society, or government representatives who described with their own words the day to day harsh living conditions and their strategies to overcome them.

I realized more than ever how important it is to work with local actors and to transfer competencies at every level to make a difference in the life of the communities. It is a process that takes time, that is complex but also necessary to build resilience and empower the most vulnerable communities, most especially children, adolescents, and women. 



Despite humanitarian aid's relevance in alleviating populations' suffering, simply providing assistance year after year will not be enough to prevent the continued weakening of local capacities and the growing feelings of exclusion and among most disadvantaged groups. These are the root causes fueling a conflict that need to be tackled.

The current context demands the strengthening of local governance, restoring degraded land, enhancing access to essential services, improving economic opportunities, and the consolidation of social cohesion to achieve the humanitarian, development, and peace nexus.

With the German Ministry for Cooperation and Development (BMZ) support, UNICEF and WFP were granted flexible funding for an adaptive program to strengthen resilience and social cohesion in the Diffa region. The project aims to strengthen the resilience of the most vulnerable population groups and local institutions through multisectoral and multi-year interventions and to reinforce their social cohesion by contributing to peaceful cohabitation in the targeted communities.

UNICEF and WFP will assist 150,000 people over three years (2020-2022) in Diffa (Gueskerou, Chetimari & Diffa municipalities) and Maïné Soroa Districts (Maïné Soroa municipality) through their integrated package of interventions, strengthening synergies and complementarities by assisting the same communities over three years.

Key interventions include nutrition, education, WASH, Health, child protection to enhance access to basic social services and land rehabilitation and livelihood support activities, to support diversified livelihoods and employment opportunities for youth and women. The project aims to support the Government of Niger in the region and complement interventions of partners ongoing programs such as UNDP´s Regional Stabilization Facility for Lake Chad, UNHCR, FAO, IFAD, UNFPA, World Bank, and NGO Catholic Relief Services (CRS), developing a collaboration model building upon each agency’s comparative advantage, as well as experiences and learning from ongoing programs and adapted to the context of Diffa.

The alliance aims, among other goals, to:

  • Strengthen the capacity of systems and institutions for better governance and ownership, promoting accountability, efficiency, and inclusion.
  • Strengthen livelihoods and improve access to quality social services by implementing UNICEF and WFP integrated packages of interventions at the community level, through the promotion of community ownership and involvement in all decisions concerning their well-being.

Together, UNICEF and WFP have organized a technical planning workshop in October 2020 with different local actors (government technical services, youth, university, traditional leaders, representatives of municipalities...) in Diffa to lay the foundations for joint operational planning of interventions. This preliminary work will then be discussed and amended through joint participatory consultations with the targeted municipalities,' the regional consultation framework, key partners operating in the region to further inform project implementation and complementary and coordinated efforts. Most importantly, this preliminary work will be further refined at local level through participatory approaches to ensure that interventions respond to context-specific solutions and community priorities to ensure sustainability.

This approach reflects the paradigm shift and the vision to build resilience by strengthening local capacities around decentralization efforts and integrated community approaches, working under the leadership of the government, ensuring effective coordination with partners and communities’ participation to decision making from the planning phases of the program.

Overall, my mission made me aware of our responsibility to engage with communities and build their inner capacities to strengthen their resilience and contribute to a better world for children.


 For every child, resilience. 

Ulrich is the Principal advisor for the UNICEF – BMZ partnership in charge of driving multi-sectorial coordination and cooperation toward collective resilience outcomes. 'My position at UNICEF allows me to contribute to the operationalization of the humanitarian-development – peace nexus,' he says.

This article was possible thanks to the support of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).