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UN Body Announces New $2m Grant To Tackle Escalating Refugee Crisis in Niger

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – Education Cannot Wait (ECW), the United Nations (UN) global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises have announced a new $2 million grant to address insecurity, school closures and escalating refugee crisis in Niger.

ECW works through the multilateral system to both increase the speed of responses in crises and connect immediate relief and longer-term interventions through multi-year programming.

The organization also works in close partnership with governments, public and private donors, UN agencies, civil society organizations, and other humanitarian and development aid actors to increase efficiencies and end silted responses

The new investment which will be delivered by the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) with local strategic partners, will reach 22,000 girls and boys impacted by instability, displacement and school closures in the border region with Nigeria.

The growing refugee crisis in Niger has further endangered the out-of-school children in the Maradi and Tahoua regions of the West African nation. The country currently hosts over half a million “people of concern,” including internally displaced persons, refugees, returnees and asylum seekers, according to UNHCR.

Due to an increase in the ongoing insecurity which has been prevailing since 2019 in the north-west Nigerian border regions with Niger, namely Tahoua and Maradi, population displacements have notably increased in the last half of 2021 and beginning of 2022.

Approximately 34,000 new Nigerian refugees were registered by UNHCR in these two regions between August and September 2021. A further 23,000 new refugees arrived in August 2021 in the Maradi region, and 11,070 others arrived in the commune of Bangui in September 2021 in the Tahoua region.

Since 10 March 2022, 1,881 new families of 13,537 individuals have arrived from Nigeria in the Maradi region. Seven out of ten of the newly arrived refugees are children.

Consequently, their access to education is becoming an increasing challenge due to the unpreparedness of the education system to receive them, cultural practices, and the continued displacement of households due to the activities of armed forces and non-state armed groups.

The grant will improve access to formal and non-formal education for crisis-affected children and adolescents by providing learning materials and supporting teacher trainings, increase the availability of appropriate transitional classes for out-of-school children and older adolescents, and build and rehabilitate school facilities, including water and sanitation facilities and temporary learning spaces.

In addition, it seeks to recruit and train teachers and improve community mobilization to get children and adolescents back into school.

To provide “whole of child” solutions, it will equally support welfare and protection in schools by improving mental health and psychosocial activities, prevention, and mitigation of gender-based violence risks, empowerment of the affected population and implementation of the code of conduct through trainings targeting teachers, students, community structures and education sector partners.

Director of ECW, Yasmine Sherif said girls are particularly at extreme risk of dropping out and being subjected to gender-based violence, while boys are exposed to recruitment into armed groups.

“With UNHCR and local strategic partners, this new investment seeks to provide refugee girls and boys and their host-communities with protective and safe learning spaces, so that they can learn and grow in some form of safety and dignity. They deserve no less”, she said.

Sherif added that the grant builds on ECW’s Multi-Year Resilience Programme in Niger, which seeks to reach more than a quarter of a million crisis-affected children and adolescents and mobilize an additional $39 million.

According to her, the 12-month grant targets 11,000 refugees, 6,000 internally displaced persons, and close to 5,000 members of the host communities adding that in all, 60 per cent of the investment beneficiaries are girls and 10 per cent are children living with disabilities.

UNHCR Representative in Niger, Emmanuel Gignac said the strategic partnership between the UN agency and ECW is of the utmost importance to them, noting that It enables UNHCR and its partners to provide quality education to refugees, internally displaced persons, and other vulnerable people affected by terrorist violence.

“The focus on girls’ education is critical and is also in line with the Government of Niger’s priority to fully include girls in the national education system. We know such approach is key in building sustainable peace, here in Niger as much as in other parts of the world”, he stressed.


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