GENEVA – The U.N. refugee agency has condemned a recent attack by armed assailants on Toumour, a town in southeast Niger, which killed at least 28 people and injured hundreds more.
Aid workers are doing their best to pick up the pieces after Boko Haram militants savaged the town and its inhabitants during an attack on December 12, which lasted four hours.
UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch says there is heightened concern for the safety of more than 30,000 refugees and internally displaced people sheltering in the town of Toumour, close to the Nigerian border.
“According to local sources, the assailants destroyed nearly two-thirds of the town’s homes, burned the Toumour market to the ground, and killed more than a thousand cattle. Following the attack, most of the population fled to the bush, with some people returning only at daytime,” he said.
Baloch says his agency and others are working with local authorities to provide emergency shelter, food, water and health care to the distraught inhabitants of Toumour. However, access to the area is difficult, he says because of recent heavy flooding.
He notes many of the survivors are on the move toward Diffa, a town some 100 kilometers further inland. The UNHCR spokesman says Diffa, which currently hosts 46,000 refugees and asylum seekers, also is subject to vicious attacks by armed groups. “Diffa region in southeast Niger has been hit hard by increasing extremist violence on the Lake Chad Basin that has forced hundreds of thousands into the region. In the first nine months of this year, over 450 acts of killing, kidnapping, sexual and gender-based violence, and other serious incidents were reported,” he said.
The UNHCR and partners are helping more than 265,000 forcibly displaced people in the Diffa region. However, the U.N. refugee agency says it is experiencing a serious cash flow. It is appealing to the international community for support in filling a huge funding gap. The agency says it only has received 52 percent of the $126.3 million needed for its humanitarian operations in the Lake Chad Basin next year.
Source: Voice of America