Military escalation must not push Niger and wider region into deeper humanitarian crisis

Published 11. Aug 2023
Statement by Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, following the coup in Niger and announced deployment of ECOWAS standby forces:

“We are deeply concerned about the spiralling situation in Niger, a country that already faces two large-scale humanitarian crises in the Central Sahel and the Lake Chad basin. In this volatile context, there are very serious risks of further destabilisation for both the country and the wider region. We are particularly worried about the fallout of any conflict on refugees coming from ECOWAS countries, and about new forced displacements an armed escalation could prompt.

“We cannot overstate the impact on civilians, both in terms of humanitarian and protection needs, when military imperatives take precedence over civilian governance. Niger has the youngest and one of the poorest populations on Earth. Already prior to the coup, one in six people needed humanitarian assistance. The ensuing sanctions and suspensions of development aid are expected to have a dramatic impact on living conditions for a population already under heavy strain. Now, an estimated 1.4 million people are exposed to additional risks such as youth enrolment into armed groups, child labour, and underage marriage.

“There is still time to avoid a military confrontation and find a peaceful resolution. States and sanctioning bodies must prevent further adverse effects on civilians by including humanitarian exemptions to any existing and future sanctions regimes. We urge all parties to adhere to international humanitarian law and guarantee the protection of civilians, as well as safe, continuous, and unhindered access to the most vulnerable populations.”


  • Niger is one of the world’s poorest countries with more than 10 million people (over 40% of the population) living in extreme poverty — but it’s also the world’s youngest with 49% of the population currently under 15. (Source: World Bank & World Bank)
  • As of June 2023, there are over 400,000 internally displaced people in Niger as well as 300,000 refugees and asylum seekers. (403,974 IDPs, 251,760 refugees and 50,377 asylum seekers)
  • 4.3 million (1 out of 6 people in the country) were in need of humanitarian assistance in early 2023 (Source: OCHA, 2023 Humanitarian Needs Overview)
  • According to a preliminary analysis, over 1,4 million people are exposed to additional protection risks as sanctions and the suspension of foreign aid are expected to lead the most vulnerable populations to resort to negative strategies in order to cope with the increased cost of living. (Source: Protection Cluster)
  • Only 37% of the 584 million USD requested to meet humanitarian needs in 2023 have been disbursed so far. (Source: OCHA Financial Tracking System)