July 18, 2024

UN says humanitarian work in Niger continues

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The United Nations insisted Friday it is still providing humanitarian assistance on the ground in Niger but was forced to suspend aid flights after the coup closed borders.

A UN spokesperson had said on Thursday that this week’s putsch in troubled Sahel country had put humanitarian operations on hold.

But Nicole Kouassi, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Niger told reporters that the world body’s humanitarian assistance, development and peace efforts “continue” there.

“What we have grounded at this point is the humanitarian assistance flights,” she said, adding they are “temporarily suspended just because the Niger airspace is closed given the closure of the borders.”

“We are committed to support and to continue our operational work on the ground given the situation,” Kouassi told reporters in New York via video-link from Niamey.

Niger’s putschists on Friday named General Abdourahamane Tchiani, head of the Presidential Guard since 2011, as the country’s new leader.

Army troops had on Wednesday detained President Mohamed Bazoum.

Niger, a nation of 22 million is two-thirds desert and frequently ranks at the bottom of the UN’s Human Development Index, a benchmark of prosperity.

The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in Niger has risen precipitously from 1.9 million in 2017 to 4.3 million in 2023, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Niger is struggling with two jihadist campaigns — one in the southwest, which swept in from Mali in 2015, and the other in the southeast, involving jihadists from northeastern Nigeria.

“The humanitarian response continues on the ground and has never stopped,” World Food Program country director Jean-Noel Gentile told reporters during the same briefing as Kouassi.

“We are able to access vulnerable areas and vulnerable populations in Niger,” he added.

©️ Agence France-Presse

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