Uncertainty Between Fear and Hope

Thousands of families are living in uncertainty in the Tillabéry region, where a resurgence of non-state armed groups has plunged them into permanent fear.

Lalaina Fatratra Andriamasinoro
24 February 2021

"The security situation in this area remains uncertain. With the recent attacks in Tchamo-Bangou, which resulted in around 100 innocent victims, we are afraid that similar events will happen here in Torodi," says a concerned Salifou*, a father of four.

In January 2020, armed groups carried out coordinated attacks against the villages of Tchamo-Bangou and Zaroumdareye, in the Tillabéry region of Niger near the border with Mali. At least 100 people were murdered, 25 others were injured and hundreds of survivors were forced to flee.

“We have no idea what may happen in this region. We know that there are frequent population movements; many have fled their villages to seek refuge in safer areas," he says.

According to the last report published by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, "there has been a deterioration of the humanitarian situation along the border strip with Mali and Burkina Faso and a shrinking of the humanitarian space, following a resurgence of activities by non-state armed groups.”

“It seems that these armed groups are even trying to recruit young people from the region to join their ranks. We have received reports from some parents to this effect. Fortunately, in the municipality, we had taken a number of measures to prevent these risks," explains Salifou*.

“We held a series of dialogues with the community, and in particular with young people, with the aim of raising their awareness of the risks of recruitment into non-state armed groups."

“However, many of them questioned what alternatives they could rely on to avoid being caught in the clutches of these groups, in a climate underpinned by psychosis and uncertainty. The debates are sometimes very heated, but at the end of each session everyone agreed that violence is not the way out of this crisis."


With the support of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS), UNICEF and its partners have managed to set up a total of 24 spaces for dialogue between young people on the risks of enlistment in non-state armed groups in the region, spaces which now have more than 120 members, including 45 girls.

“In this region, an entire generation of young children has grown up knowing only crisis and displacements. Ensuring respect of their rights is a major priority for us. We strive to provide a safe environment where they can be safe ", explains Saley Garba, Coordinator of the NGO ANTD (Association Nigérienne pour le Traitement de la Délinquance et la Prévention du Crime), in charge of implementing this initiative in the region.

The support provided by AICS has also enabled UNICEF and its partners to set up around forty child protection committees, whose mission is to sensitize and mobilize communities on child protection, prevent the risks of violations of their rights, develop local solutions to the problems they face and provide psychosocial support to affected children.

More than 220 community awareness-raising sessions were also conducted in the region on issues related to the protection of children in emergency situations, reaching nearly 3,400 people, including more than 1,500 children.

“Our life is full of uncertainty, between fear and hope. I wake up every day wondering what frightening news there will be in our villages or in our region. But uncertainty and unpredictability are also where there’s an opening for hope. We continue to believe that we will overcome this situation, both through our own efforts and with the support of the authorities and our partners," concluded Salifou*.

*The name has been changed to preserve the anonymity of the witness account.