“We sheltered them with open arms”

More than 40,000 displaced people in the Maradi region of Niger

By Araia T. Alvarez
Zéli Barou (left), Rahamou Inoussa (right) live together alongside other family members in Dan Kano village.
UNICEF Niger/2019/Araia T. Alvarez

16 October 2019

*Samia Hassane, knows too well what it is like to lose everything. She is one of the thousands of displaced mothers who fled violence in her village in northwestern Nigeria. 

“Thieves arrived at our village firing guns. They took our belongings. They took our livestock. They killed our husbands. They chased us out of our village. We hid in the bush. We fled until we found refuge here in Dan Kano. Here at least we can sleep peacefully,” she says. 

Since May 2019, the border villages in the Maradi region of Niger have provided shelter to more than 39,000 displaced people; the vast majority – around 70 per cent – are women and children.

Link to video on it's hosted site.
Araia Tamayo
More than 40,000 displaced people in the Maradi region of Niger

One of these villages is Dan Kano. *Mohamed Souleymane, the village chief explains what happened. 

“When they started coming to our village, I went to see the households in my area to ask them to welcome these displaced people with open arms. Armed groups chased them out of their homes. We sheltered them in ours with open arms so that their suffering can be relieved,” he says. “It’s been three months since we gave refuge to them and at the moment their numbers are twice as big as the population from Dan Kano.” 

Most of the displaced people were taken in by host families who readily shared their scarce resources with them.

*Abdoul Aziz and his family, who has hosted 43 displaced people at home.
UNICEF Niger/2019/Araia T. Alvarez
*Abdoul Aziz and his family, who has hosted 43 displaced people at home.

“I welcomed 43 displaced people in my home,” says *Abdoul Aziz, the head of the household where Samia and her children stay. “The day they arrived I opened the door of our home and I placed them inside, but there weren’t enough bedrooms so we had to sleep on old clothes. During the winter period, I built a house next door''. 

This situation exacerbates the vulnerability of both the refugee and host families. 

“We don’t have enough food. We all share what we find for eating. Now we have become one family,” says *Marietou, Abdoul ’s wife. 

Samia, who sits next to her, adds, “We had to flee without our belongings. *Abdoul and his family don’t have enough food for everybody. We eat what Abdoul finds. If any of us manages to find something, we bring it home. There isn’t any conflict or distinction among us.” 

UNICEF and its partners have activated the Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) in the area. RRM is a unique partnership and emergency response capacity arrangement, designed to provide critical multi-sectoral assistance to emergency-affected people. 

RRM teams are now on the ground to evaluate the vulnerabilities and needs of the displaced and local populations in each host village and launch a swift humanitarian response.

An RRM Action Against Hunger team member conducting a multisectoral evaluation.
UNICEF Niger/2019/Araia T. Alvarez
An RRM Action Against Hunger team member conducting a multisectoral evaluation.

“We are in the field making a multi-sector evaluation before delivering the response in water, hygiene, sanitation, food security, non-food items and shelter, and civilian protection,” says Hassane Adamou Manirou, the RRM team coordinator from UNICEF partner NGO, Action Against Hunger. 

“Our evaluation involves collecting qualitative data through direct observations, discussions with community leaders and interviews with key informants, as well as quantitative data through home surveys at community level,” explains Hassane Adamou Manirou. 

During the year 2019, thanks to the financial support of the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), the Governments of Japan and Sweden and USAID, in Niger more than 89,785 people have received RRM assistance, including 51,977 people who received essential household items. In addition, 108 multi-sector evaluations have been conducted to inform the humanitarian community about the most urgent needs of displaced and host families, in order to provide a targeted and rapid humanitarian response.

*Names changed to protect person's identity