Diffa, Niger: The Burden of Violence

10 May 2017

For more than three years, the ongoing conflict between Boko Haram and the armies in the Lake Chad region has taken a heavy toll on civilian populations. Many have fled their homes and left everything behind to find refuge in other villages and eventually across borders. In Diffa, which is in southeastern Niger and borders Chad and Nigeria, there are according to the authorities more than 240.000 displaced people, the majority of whom have been driven from one place to another because of violence.


© Juan Carlos Tomasi / MSF

“Without help, I would have gone mad”

Garba has been fleeing violence for more than three years. He has been displaced 15 times between Cameroon, Nigeria and Niger. The worst happened while he was in Nigeria: “I made the decision to send my three wives and nine children to Chad, where I thought they would be safe. My idea was to join them a little later. On their way, when they were travelling in a canoe, they were attacked by a Boko Haram group. I was told that my entire family had their throats cut. It happened in the middle of the day. That’s all I know. I couldn’t even say goodbye to them. I remember the fear, the despair.”

Garba has been living for more than nine months at the Garin Wazam refugee and displaced persons camp, in the Nigerien region of Diffa, where he works as a guard at the Médecins Sans Frontières clinic. “I have now remarried. We’re expecting our first child together. My wife’s pregnancy is being followed by staff at the Médecins Sans Frontières clinic. I speak to the psychologist a lot. We talk about being displaced, all the violence, the fear of Boko Haram returning, how hard I find it to sleep at night... Without his help, I think I would have gone mad.”

© Juan Carlos Tomasi / MSF

© Juan Carlos Tomasi / MSF

“I haven’t lost hope of seeing my daughters again”

Kaka, 25, is being treated in the obstetric care unit at the Médecins Sans Frontières mother and child health centre in Diffa following a miscarriage. “Three years ago, when my son was still a baby, Boko Haram arrived in Damasak (Nigeria). We fled to the forest to hide. They found us and ordered the women and children to go back home. They detained the men. Many people died or were injured that day. My family managed to escape, but I was detained with my children. My son and I were freed after 22 days, but they kept my three daughters. They’ve destroyed our lives.” Kaka, managed to rejoin her husband and her mother in Diffa. “At least we have a roof over our heads and something to eat every day, even though it isn’t much. I hope peace returns and we can go back home. I haven’t lost hope of seeing my daughters again. I know they are alive.”


Site for displaced people and refugees in Garin Wazan. © Juan Carlos Tomasi / MSF

“We lack aid and cannot find work”

“When we were still on Lake Chad, some of our livestock were stolen by Boko Haram. Then they ordered us to leave. We didn’t have enough time to organise ourselves and we had to leave everything behind, including our animals. Then, there was flooding. I don’t know what is left of our homes.” Idi Baidou is head of a community of over 1,000 families from the islands of Lake Chad. They had to leave the islands when the authorities ordered their evacuation after an attack by Boko Haram. Since then, they have lived in various locations and finally settled in Garin Wazan camp.“We lack aid and, as we cannot find work, daily life is difficult. But, for the first time, our children are going to school. We don’t want to return to Lake Chad. Our priority is to find work to provide for our families and ensure that our children can continue to be educated.”


Map with the locations where MSF is working in Diffa region. © Juan Carlos Tomasi / MSF