NEW YORK (July 7, 2021) – "Good morning and thank you. Today I will offer a brief overview of one of the most complex and challenging humanitarian environments on our planet – Niger.
"In short, this year, 3.8 million people, including 2.1 million children or 18 percent of children in Niger, will need humanitarian assistance in Niger. Many of those in need are in hard-to-reach areas with limited humanitarian access.
"Let me give some background into the causes of these staggering numbers, and what needs to happen.
"Niger is facing an almost overwhelming crisis: recurring armed conflict, displacement, malnutrition, epidemics and climate-related disasters. And of course the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19.
"Security. Insecurity is spreading at a rapid pace in Niger. Attacks along the borders with Burkina Faso, Mali and Nigeria have led to significant displacements in the country and continue to wreak havoc on the lives of hundreds of thousands of children.
"Insecurity along the borders with Burkina Faso and Mali have exacerbated needs in Tillabéry and Tahoua, where over 195,000 people are displaced. Attacks on civilians in the Lake Chad region have prevented nearly 269,000 people in Diffa from returning home.
"In a context of constrained resources and limited social services, the communities that host displaced populations are showing extraordinary resilience and sharing the little they have. First responders are members of the community themselves. They bring food, shelter, health care, protection and hope to others amid conflict, displacement, disaster and disease. This truly is a great example that Nigeriens are showing to the world.
"However, the sharp increase in insecurity and movement restrictions imposed by the government have hampered humanitarian actors’ access to conflict- and crisis-affected populations. UNICEF calls on all stakeholders to respect humanitarian spaces that allow safe and sustainable access to deliver humanitarian assistance.
"And attacks on children and families must stop, once and for all. The protection of children’s rights in displacement is fundamental.
"Malnutrition is a major threat to children’s health and development in Niger. Despite recent efforts, severe acute malnutrition rates and burden remain extremely high. 2.2 million people need nutrition assistance and more than 1.6 million children under five are estimated to suffer from malnutrition, of which over 450,000 are severely malnourished.
"To combat malnutrition, we know that one needs to invest in preventing and concurrently responding to acute malnutrition. However, our ability to respond is constrained by the types of resources we have - which mostly cater to children after they have already become acutely malnourished. We need to emphasize and invest in prevention as a durable solution even in the midst of emergency action.
"Climate. In 2020, record-level flooding hit Niger and affected more than 640,000 people, hugely surpassing previous years and forecasts. It highlighted the country’s vulnerability to climate-related threats and negatively impacted access to services such as health, safe drinking water and education.
"Disease. Over the past decade, Niger has faced the resurgence of several epidemics of diseases preventable by vaccination and/or hygiene and sanitation measures. In 2020, four epidemics raged in several regions: measles, meningitis, polio, and a very high seasonal peak of malaria. Indeed, in 2020, more than three million cases of malaria were reported, which is three times higher than in 2019.
"Education. Chronic insecurity and natural disasters - drought and floods - severely hamper the right to education of children in Niger. As of the end of May 2021, 409 schools remained closed during the school year. One should note that more than 2.5 million children of school age are out of school and that 90 percent of grade 1 students do not complete high school. The education sector is in crisis.
"Let me pause and offer some relative good news: The new government has stated that security and education (particularly girls’ education) are key priorities to which the President in person has committed to devote the weight of his office in order to move the needle. These are fundamental determinants of stability and development for Niger.
"And thanks to vaccines contributed through the COVAX facility and Sinovac/China, Niger has started vaccination against COVID-19. The overall commitment through the COVAX facility will cover more than 4.5 million people (45 percent of the vaccination target and 20 percent of the country’s total population respectively).
"UNICEF’s response: Flexible funding enabled UNICEF to respond to chronic and acute needs by delivering an integrated package of services in nutrition, WASH, cholera prevention, education, essential household items, health and child protection. Thanks to donor support to UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children, in 2020 a total of 714,000 people (including 566,000 children) received assistance, representing 90 percent of the overall target. In 2021, UNICEF plans to reach some 1.3 million people.
"Going forward, a complex and prolonged crisis as the one in Niger requires work on multiple fronts. One in which we will continue to root emergency interventions in durable solutions and peacebuilding. For example, we will prefer digging boreholes for displaced persons and host communities over water trucking. We will want to embed our acute malnutrition work in an approach that also seeks to reduce the incidence of it. We will seek to improve access to and the quality of education for all children as a way to provide positive life prospects in adulthood as well as responsible citizenship. And we will continue to address silent emergencies such as child marriage through policy advocacy and community action to influence social norms.
"In 2021, UNICEF and its partners will need $102 million to deliver vital humanitarian and recovery assistance to children throughout the country. We count on you to help realize our objectives for the children of Niger."
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The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 190 countries and territories to pursue a more equitable world for every child. UNICEF has helped save more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization, by providing health care and immunizations, safe water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more.
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