Refugee Relief in Niger

July 17, 2012 • Niger

Samaritan's Purse is helping people fleeing fighting in neighboring Mali

Moussa and Amina are a young couple who have spent their entire lives in Gao, a city in northern Mali not far from the border with Niger. Moussa was an associate pastor at an evangelical Baptist church, and Amina was a schoolteacher. They have two young children, ages 7 and 3.

Their lives were peaceful and uneventful until March 31 this year.

At 9 a.m. that day, soldiers from a rebel group called the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) penetrated the city. After a day of fighting, the MNLA had taken control of Gao, and armed Tuareg rebels roamed the streets.

The group declared the area was now an independent nation named Azawad, and Gao was the capital. Moussa said the rebels began by taking control of the local hospitals, schools, and churches, and then moved on to NGOs, cereal banks, and even shops. The rebels next began ransacking and looting residences—including Moussa and Amina’s home.

“Everything was stolen,” Moussa said. “We lost everything dear to us.”

The rebel movement had joined forces with an extremist Muslim group. As Christians, Moussa and Amina feared for their lives and immediately began looking for a way out.

There was a mass exodus from Gao, making transportation virtually impossible. All of the vehicles leaving town were constantly full. On April 4, Moussa and his family finally found a bus bound for a town on the border with Niger.

Moussa and Amina eventually made it into Niger and finally to Niamey, the capital. They had left with virtually nothing—very little money, some clothing, and a few books. They didn’t know where to turn for help.

Samaritan’s Purse is responding to the refugee crisis. Through our office in Niger, we are working with local partners to provide refugee families with items such as rice, oil, beans, onions, salt, and soap. Because they weren’t receiving any other help, we provided Christian families with mattresses, pillows, blankets, bowls, buckets, mats, and cooking pots.

Moussa and Amina were among those receiving help. Not only relief supplies, but a source of income. Because of Moussa’s training as a pastor, he was hired by Samaritan’s Purse to help with health and hygiene education as well as evangelism in the Malian refugee camps in northern Niger.

The job has allowed Moussa to begin renting a small house in Niamey. The only items in the home are those they received at the distribution.

“We owe all of our gratitude to the Christian organizations like Samaritan’s Purse who have helped us through this hard time,” Moussa said.