A stampede during an aid distribution operation in Niger’s southeastern Diffa region left at least 20 refugees from neighbouring Nigeria dead on Monday, local authorities said.
The refugees were queuing at a community centre for food rations and clothing donated by the governor of Nigeria’s Borno State when the crush happened, killing 15 women and five children.
The border region of Diffa has been repeatedly struck by Boko Haram militants in recent years, and currently hosts more than 250,000 displaced people – around half of them refugees from Nigeria – according to the UN.
Militant groups have also expanded their footprint in Niger’s western Tillabéri and Tahoua regions – which share a border with Mali and Burkina Faso – creating a humanitarian crisis that saw roughly 80,000 people displaced last year.
Boko Haram and its Islamic State West Africa Province offshoot remain potent forces in Nigeria and the wider region, and are increasingly targeting aid workers, the UN said last month.
– Philip Kleinfeld