Malian refugees in Niger: new homes allow a fresh start
Refugees from Mali have been living in Niger for many years. New homes now offer them an opportunity to enjoy a peaceful life in a new community.
Agali Amina stands in front of her new house with a sense of relief. Now 40 years old, she left Mali in 2016 to escape the violence there and fled to neighbouring Niger, where she and her six children spent almost five years living in Mangaise refugee camp. She finally moved into a house of her own in the village of Ouallam last year, giving her a permanent place to call home: ‘My family and I are protected from the elements here and we’ve also got our privacy back,’ she says.
The house was built as part of a joint project launched by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). The initiative works on behalf of the German Development Ministry (BMZ) to build houses in the Tillabéri region in western Niger and assist the Government with providing safe accommodation to refugees outside of camps. These homes allow both refugees from Mali and disadvantaged people from Niger to determine their own futures. With some 250,000 refugees from Mali and Nigeria currently living in Niger, demand is high. The project is building around 2,300 houses in total for them.
Refugees and local residents get involved themselves, working together to build their own futures
To ensure that it also benefits the host regions, the project supports the local economy. Over 9,500 people from the Tillabéri region, among them locals, internally displaced persons and refugees, are receiving basic training in trades, producing bricks and building the houses themselves. In this way, the project combines knowledge from UNHCR and GIZ, and pools expertise from the humanitarian assistance sector, long-term development cooperation and peacebuilding work.
Agali Amina moved into her house on the rocky Sahel plateau of Tillabéri in March 2021. After years in the refugee camp, the house is more than just a roof over her head; it has become her home. ‘Thanks to the housing construction project, I can see a bright future for my three children who are at school.’ The school building is just a short walk from her house.
In Ouallam, refugees and local residents live together peacefully: ‘Sometimes, people from the local community invite us into their homes or to join them for special occasions, such as weddings,’ says Amina. Putting up houses strengthens social cohesion locally, as refugees and locals train side by side, produce the bricks together and join forces to build themselves a future.