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Aid agencies plea for exemptions to Niger sanctions

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The UN and a host of humanitarian agencies are calling on the West African regional bloc, Ecowas, to grant exemptions to the sanctions imposed on Niger in the wake of the coup as they are threatening the health of some of the people.

“There is no way to bring humanitarian aid into the country,” Emmanuel Gignac, the UN refugee agency representative for Niger, is quoted by the Reuters news agency as saying.

“The immediate goods (affected) is going to be food and then it’s going to be access to medicine, to drugs.”

He painted a picture of a possible worsening situation where, with electricity supplies cut by Nigeria, people are relying increasingly on generators, but the supply of fuel could be under threat.

In the wake of the 26 July coup, some of Niger’s neighbours shut their common borders as a means to put pressure on the junta to allow a return to civilian rule.

Mr Gignac said that Martin Griffiths, the head of the UN’s office for humanitarian affairs, has written to Ecowas asking for exemptions, Reuters reports.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is among the dozens of agencies which has echoed that call, saying that “exemptions are vital to ensure uninterrupted access to humanitarian assistance services for vulnerable populations, particularly children, in Niger”.

“The clock is ticking, and the lives of Nigerien children are hanging in the balance,” Paolo Cernuschi, IRC Niger country director, said.

“Currently, stocks of vital supplies, such as nutritional aid and medical provisions, are held up at the borders due to sanctions. In a nation where acute malnutrition rates are alarmingly high, these delays could prove catastrophic.”

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