Niger, Médecins Sans Frontières denounces the appalling conditions in which thousands of migrants have been abandoned in the desert in Assamaka
ROME - Between 11 January and 3 March 2023, 4,677 migrants arrived on foot in Assamaka, a city in the Agadez region of northern Niger, after being deported from Algeria and stranded in the desert. Fewer than 15 percent of them were able to get shelter or some form of protection upon arrival. The medical-humanitarian organization, Nobel Prize winner, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) calls on the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to immediately provide protection to people stranded in extremely precarious conditions in Assamaka.
Camp in desperate conditions. The MSF-supported Integrated Health Center (IHC) in Assamaka is overcrowded as thousands of migrant people have sought refuge at the facility. There are people sleeping in every corner of the building. Some have set up makeshift tents at the entrance or in the courtyard. Others are camped out in front of the maternity ward, on the roof or in the waste area. MSF staff say the situation is unprecedented. Temperatures in Assamaka, an arid desert city, can reach 48 degrees, so refugees seek refuge from the heat wherever they can find it. Even in very unhygienic places, such as waste areas, where they are exposed to health risks such as contagious diseases and skin infections.
The witness. “We are worried because no one is giving us an answer as to when we will return to our country of origin,” says a Cameroonian migrant who took refuge at the HC. “We don't know when we will leave Assamaka. It's like being in an open-air prison. As for the meals, everything we get is very poorly prepared. There is more sand than food. It makes us sick, gives us diarrhea and stomach pain,” she says. “Rations are so minimal that we don't eat enough. We live at the IHC in sheds built for COVID-19 patients. At night, the police patrol the village capture the migrants who are lost and send them back to the facility”.
The voice of MSF. "This is an unprecedented situation that requires an urgent humanitarian response from ECOWAS, where most of these people come from," says Jamal Mrouch, MSF head of mission in Niger. "As a humanitarian medical organization, it is our duty to denounce that all people, including children, are in a precarious situation in the Assamaka desert where they face risks to their health."