More than 40 migrants from Nigeria and Ghana died in the Sahara desert this week after their truck broke down in arid northern Niger, the Red Cross told news agency Reuters on Wednesday (31 May).
Six survivors walked to a remote village where they said that 44 people, mostly from Ghana and Nigeria and including three babies and two other children, died of thirst, said Lawal Taher, the department head for the Red Cross in the Bilma region. The six survivors, all women, are being looked after in Dirkou, Niger, Taher said.
Reuters and the authorities in Niger were unable to immediately confirm their account, but Taher said the Red Cross had told officials and that a search for the bodies was underway.
The number of migrants crossing the Sahara has increased in recent years as many young West Africans risk their lives in the hope of a better life in Europe.
In one of the most perilous parts of the journey, thousands of migrants each week are crammed into pickup trucks for the days-long ride from Niger into Libya, often with only enough room for a few litres of water.
Authorities and aid organisations are able to keep track of the thousands of migrant deaths in the Mediterranean Sea between Africa and Europe, but it is almost impossible to know how many have died in the vast and unpoliced Sahara.
Last year, a report by 4mi, an affiliate of the Danish Refugee Council, reported that it is likely that more migrants die in the desert than at sea, according to testimony from migrants.
The bodies of 34 migrants, including 20 children, were found in the Sahara Desert near Niger’s border with Algeria in June 2016.
Kola Tella with agency report