Niger: Humanitarian Aid Despite Sanctions

Niger mother and child health

A humanitarian emergency is unfolding before our very eyes in the Republic of Niger. The security situation is deteriorating dramatically, while the price of basic staple foods is continually rising, and droughts and floods are displacing families.

The sanctions imposed by the international community in response to the overthrow of the President and his government in July are further aggravating the situation for the population by preventing humanitarian actors from carrying out their work. This will have disastrous consequences that can be avoided.

In Niger, the school year starts two months later than in Switzerland. However, in October, it is likely that only a quarter of the children in emergency situations will receive school supplies. Sanctions imposed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are currently preventing humanitarian organisations from delivering aid to the country. Air and land routes have been closed and development aid suspended.

The resulting challenges go far beyond the lack of textbooks: basic necessities, including food and medicines, are also blocked at the borders, and a large proportion of the population has no access to healthcare. 

As is often the case, collective sanctions particularly affect the most vulnerable groups of the population. Even before the coup, UNICEF estimated that 1.5 million children under the age of 5 would be suffering from malnutrition by 2023. Emergency stocks to deal with this precarious food situation will last for another three months.

What happens next? How can we guarantee that these children will continue to receive the support they so desperately need? Clearly, there is an urgent need for humanitarian exceptions to the sanctions imposed. 

Guarantees to be obtained

4.3 million people depend on humanitarian aid, according to the Humanitarian Response Plan 2023. If they are to continue to have access to the relevant services, the unhindered and timely transport of relief goods must be guaranteed, as must the authorisation of all the financial transactions required for this purpose. In addition, there must be assurances that NGOs and their staff run no legal risks in carrying out their work. Otherwise, they will soon be unable to respond to the emergency of Niger's children.

We join resolutely with the international NGOs represented in Niger in calling for the sanctions imposed, and those planned, to be reviewed to ensure that the emphasis is on responding in the best interests of the people of Niger. They urgently need our support. 

This text was published as an opinion article in 24heures. 

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