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UNHCR: Thousands Flee Boko Haram in Niger

by Lisa Schlein June 07, 2016

In the wake of escalating attacks by Boko Haram militants, tens of thousands of people in southeast Niger have been forced to flee their homes, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

Boko Haram's attacks on the town of Bosso on Friday, Sunday and Monday displaced an estimated 50,000 people in the troubled Diffa region, the UNHCR said.

Those fleeing Bosso are mainly walking westward to the town of Toumour, some 30 kilometers to the west, UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said at a news conference Tuesday, noting people reportedly are "traumatized."

"People are sleeping in the open. People urgently need shelter. They need other help," he said. "… The welfare of these people and others forced to flee in this region is, at present, of great concern."

He added that insecurity has "long hampered humanitarian operations in parts of this region."

Last month, the UNHCR warned that humanitarian and security conditions in the Diffa region were worsening. The agency said the area was so dangerous its staff has not been able to work in Bosso since February 2015, when Boko Haram insurgents widened their area of conflict from Nigeria to Niger. Since then, at least 240,000 people have been displaced in the region, the agency estimates. That includes 80,000 Nigerian refugees.

The UNHCR is working on a plan with authorities and aid partners to help the thousands of newly displaced people, Edwards said.

He told VOA the agency would send an emergency team to the Difffa region this week. "We do have a camp not far away from there," he said, noting it's already at capacity and "these new numbers… clearly could not be accommodated."

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