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Friday, September 22, 2023
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 31 2023 (IPS) - Nicole Kouassi, the UNDP resident representative in Niger, is constantly faced with the challenge of coordinating aid delivery to 4.3 million people in need. On Wednesday, Kouassi woke up and learned this must happen in a country where the president had just been overthrown. She said she did not see warning signs of a coup.
Kouassi told journalists that UN humanitarian, development, and peace programs continue in Niger because their support is still desperately needed. According to the World Bank, over 40% of Niger’s population was living in extreme poverty in 2021. Before the present political crisis, 3.3 million people were acutely food insecure, mostly women and children. However, the $583 million dollar appeal for aid has only been 32% funded.
“The humanitarian response continues on the ground and has never stopped,” Jean Noel Gentile, the World Food Bank representative, said.
Nevertheless, the military coup in Niger affects the flow of humanitarian aid to other neighboring countries while Niger airspace and borders are closed.
While aid programs are individual to a country, closed borders can interfere with supply chain logistics. Gentile explained that there is a crucial route through Niger that allows for the transport of aid from a logistics hub in Yemen to Mali and Burkina Faso. Aid deliveries for Niger to Chad for Sudanese refugees have also been temporarily suspended.
Gentile said it is unclear exactly how many people will be affected. He noted that there may be alternative aid routes through Cameroon and Nigeria.
When borders are open, migrants from Mali and Burkina Faso also travel to Niger. According to Emmanuel Gignac, UNHCR chief of mission, no movement has been detected across Niger’s borders since their closure.
Kouassi has not been in contact with the military leaders in power and does not yet have plans to discuss humanitarian aid delivery with them. She noted that her office does not have a political UN mandate but echoed concerns expressed by Secretary-General António Guterres.
Guterres has strongly condemned the “unconstitutional change of government in Niger.”
“Stop obstructing the democratic governance of the country and respect the rule of law,” Guterres said in a statement to those detaining the president.
Kouassi said that all UN staff were accounted for and that Niamey, the capital, seemed calm as civilians respected their new curfew.
IPS UN Bureau Report
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