Joint statement: ECOWAS’ failure to adopt exemptions to Niger sanctions puts lives of millions of Nigeriens at risk

Published 12. Dec 2023
International NGOs in Niger are expressing deep disappointment in the lack of humanitarian exemptions made by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in the sanctions regime in Niger. Humanitarian exemptions would alleviate the suffering of more than 4.3 million Nigeriens in urgent need of humanitarian aid, for whom the impacts are worsening by the day. The border between Benin and Niger remains closed to humanitarian aid and we call for its urgent reopening.

Following the 10th December’s meeting of heads of State and government, the 15-nation strong union made no allowance for calls expressed by the humanitarian community to ensure civilians of Niger have access to life-saving aid and the most vulnerable do not suffer further.

Mohammed Chikhaoui, humanitarian representative for international NGOs in Niger, said: “We are very concerned that our calls for humanitarian exemptions have fallen on deaf ears. It is an alarming message to theNigerien people; pausing critical humanitarian activities while humanitarian needs are increasing. Populations must have full andunfettered access to assistance. The road with Benin is blocked for political reasons and the alternative routes via air or BurkinaFaso currently used are too slow, too expensive and less effective. We must see a change now.

“Over 2 million people were food insecure between October and December 2023, which has forced 15% of the population to movedue to lack of access to food or assistance. Children suffer the worst; the 185.000 children under five suffering from moderate acutemalnutrition no longer have access to treatment as it is no longer available, of whom 40,000 children are at risk of falling into themost severe and deadliest form of malnutrition.

“The decision by the ECOWAS Heads of State to maintain the sanctions without taking into account the crucial humanitarian imperatives has direct consequences for the people of Niger, such as the scarcity of cash and the difficulty of obtaining food supplies,and seriously hampers efforts to provide vital humanitarian assistance in Niger.

“It’s not just the border but also the financial and economic sanctions that are affecting our capacity to operate and the communitiesto receive services. The absence of a humanitarian exemption in the economic sanctions maintained by ECOWAS risks seriously compromising access to medical assistance, food and other essential needs for the most vulnerable populations of Niger.”

We renew our call to all parties to ensure that effective, uninterrupted access to much needed assistance reaches vulnerablepersons. Legally binding humanitarian exemptions implemented by all are crucial for the provision of essential supplies, services, andeconomic resources necessary to carry out impartial humanitarian activities, as well as required to meet basic human needs. We arecalling for the border between Benin and Niger to open to humanitarian assistance immediately.

Cooperazione Internazionale 
Helen Keller International
International Rescue Committee
Islamic Relief
Medecins du Monde
Norwegian Refugee Council
Plan International
Rain for the Sahel and Sahara
Save the Children
Search for Common Ground
Solidarites International
SOS Villages d'Enfants
Welt Hunger Hilfe