Relief Materials for Nigerian Refugees in Diffa, Niger Republic

20 persons killed, others injured in food, money sharing stampede

* Why refugees ‘travelled’ dozens of miles to Youth Centre to get supplies

* How Boko Haram jihadists have attacked region since 2015

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Twenty people, many of them women and children, were trampled to death on Monday in a stampede for food and money for refugees in South-East of Niger Republic.

“We have a provisional toll of 20 dead,” a medical source said.

Aid workers confirmed the account, and said about 10 people were also injured in the process.

AFP reports the accident occurred at a youth and culture centre in Diffa, the main town of a region of that name that borders Nigeria and Chad.

The region is said to have been repeatedly hit by attacks by Nigeria’s Boko Haram jihadist group since 2015.

It hosts 119,000 Nigerian refugees, 109,000 internally-displaced people (IDPs), and 30,000 Nigeriens who have returned to Nigeria because of instability there, according to UN figures released October 2019.

Report further revealed that Prof. Babagana Umara Zulum, Governor of Borno State, in North-East Nigeria, had given the food supplies to the refugees.

The governor was said to have come to the region to visit camps for refugees and the displaced persons. Prof. Zulum had already left the town when the stampede occurred, the source added.

“They were distributing food and money ─5,000 Naira ($13.75, 12.7 Euros) per person,” a local resident said, referring to Nigeria’s national currency.

“Thousands of people, most of them refugees, heard about the handout and left the camps, sometimes travelling up to 100 kilometres (60 miles) to get to Diffa,” the source added.

“Normally, people who are entitled to the handouts send a representative to Diffa to pick it up.

“But this time, the refugees themselves decided to come and get it, travelling dozens of kilometres (miles),” a local official stated.

Another resident said: “Even ordinary inhabitants of Diffa rushed there in the hope of getting the handout.”

A large amount of food, cooking oil and clothing, as well as the money, was due to be distributed, a Diffa municipal worker told AFP.

“Thousands of people were in the courtyard of the MJC (Culture and Youth Centre) and nearby,” he said.

“As soon as the first people received their rations, the compressed crowd started to get excited, the organisers were swiftly overwhelmed and then, it all kicked off ─women, children and the fit ones started to push,” the employee said.

“The weakest people fell to the ground. Some were injured and others were crushed to death.”

A local journalist said the emergency services arrived swiftly, took the wounded people to local treatment centres, while bodies were taken to the morgue of the nearby Diffa hospital.

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