Niger: displacement crisis amid counterinsurgency
The French-backed military campaign against Islamist militants in Niger is claiming victories against the insurgency that has mounted in the country since 2015. Niger's Defense Ministry said in a statement Feb. 20 that over the past month, "120 terrorists have been neutralized," a presumed euphemism for killed. The statement said there had been no losses among Nigerien or French troops, and that vehicles and bomb-making equipment had been seized. The operation has centered on the Tillabéri region near the borders with Mali and Burkina Faso, where a state of emergency has been in place for two years.
The claimed progress comes amid a massive displacement crisis, however. According to UNICEF, growing insecurity has exacerbated needs in Tillabéri and Tahoua regions, where nearly 78,000 people have been displaced. Deteriorating security on the border with Nigeria has addittionally caused tens of thousands to seek refuge in border villages of central Niger's Maradi region. Nearly 3 million people in Niger, more than half children, are said to be in need of humanitarian assistance, amid risks posed by insecurity, malnutrition, recurrent disease epidemics and outbreaks, cyclical floods, droughts and displacement. (AFP, UN News)