Nigeria's crisis sees more than 6,000 people displaced into neighbouring countries

Briefing Notes, 11 June 2013

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 11 June 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The crisis in northeastern Nigeria has forced more than 6,000 mainly women, children and elderly people to seek safety in neighbouring Niger. Those UNCHR has spoken to say they escaped for fear of being caught in the government-led crackdown on insurgents linked to the Boko Haram sect, particularly in the Baga area of northern Nigeria, close to the Niger border.

Refugees report that air strikes by Government forces are continuing from time to time, and that planes are regularly flying over the states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa where the state of emergency has been in force since May 14th.

People arriving in Niger also mention the increasing presence of roving armed bandits in several States in Nigeria. Rising commodity prices coupled with pre-existing food insecurity is also becoming a major concern for the populations of the affected States.

Niger has so far received 6,240 people, comprising Nigerian nationals (2,692) returning Niger nationals (3,544), and 94 people of other nationalities (mainly Chadians). New arrivals have settled mainly in Bosso, Diffa, Kablewa, Maine, Tam, Tcoukoujani and Garin Amadou. Once their families are secure in Niger, men are returning to Nigeria to work and to sustain their families' needs.

Many new arrivals have walked into Niger, taking refuge in villages located only a few kilometers away from the border. Others, who fled areas located as far as 300 kilometers away such as Maidougouri in Nigeria, have used cars or motor-cycles.

New arrivals are either renting houses or staying with host families, who are themselves living in very precarious conditions. UNHCR staff who have visited several border villages hosting new arrivals also met some Nigerian families living out in the open, under trees.

Although the local population has welcomed those who have newly arrived, the presence of newcomers is also putting a strain on meager local food and water resources. Niger, a country in the Sahel, itself struggles with food insecurity due to years of drought. UNHCR plans to deliver some relief to the new arrivals as well as to the host community. We are also helping the local authorities to register new arrivals.

UNHCR has also seen arrivals in Cameroon and Chad in the past weeks. There are 155 Nigerian asylum seekers in Chad along with 716 Chadian nationals. In Cameroon there are 1,200 returned nationals.

Meanwhile in Nigeria, the security situation remains extremely difficult. UNHCR is not present in the parts of the northeast that are under a state of emergency, due to the prevailing insecurity. Information about the humanitarian situation and displaced people in the northeast is consequently limited.

In Adamawa State, insecurity is reportedly worst in the areas of military operations close to the Cameroonian border. Most of the Northeast suffers from chronic and periodic insecurity due to conflict and insurgent activities (from Borno State to Kaduna Sate).

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Dakar: Helene Caux (Regional) on mobile + 221 77 333 1291
  • In Geneva: Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile +41 79 249 3483
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Nigeria: The Casualties of Conflict

One year after the Nigerian government declared a state of emergency in the northern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, violence continues to displace people within Nigeria and to neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger, including some 22,000 Nigerian refugees. Civilians trapped at home face recurrent attacks by insurgents, with a series of kidnappings and killings culminating in mid-April this year in the abduction of more than 200 girls from a school in Chibok, Borno.

UNHCR's Hélène Caux recently travelled to the region to meet with some of the 250,000 internally displaced, including students caught up in the violence. Those she spoke to told her about their fears, and the atrocities and suffering they had endured or witnessed. People spoke about their homes and fields being destroyed, grenade attacks on markets, the killing of friends and relatives, and arbitrary arrests. Uniting them is an overwhelming sense of terror. Caux found it a challenge to photograph people who live in constant fear of being attacked. "It was this delicate balance to try to achieve between featuring them, communicating their stories and protecting them," she said.

Nigeria: The Casualties of Conflict

Young and Struggling with Malnutrition: Child Refugees in Cameroon

Growing numbers of refugees from the Central African Republic have been arriving in Cameroon in a dreadful physical condition after spending weeks or months hiding in the bush, struggling to find food and water, and sleeping out in the open, unable to return to the homes they were forced to flee from. The most vulnerable of these refugees are the children, especially those aged under five years. It is heart-breaking to see these rail thin children, clearly in need of sustenance after living on roots and leaves. An estimated 40 per cent of children arrive suffering from malnutrition and for some the journey proves too much, but UNHCR has been helping to save lives in eastern Cameroon. With Médecins Sans Frontières, the refugee agency supports a nutrition centre in Batouri. MSF sends children there from its overwhelmed health clinic in the border town of Gbiti, where some 20,000 of the 80,000 Central African refugees in Cameroon have arrived. The partners are expanding the capacity of the centre, which treats about 100 children. More arrive daily and UNHCR has set up tents to provide shelter for the children and their mothers. Photographer Frederic Noy last week visited Gbiti and Batouri and captured the following powerful images.

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2014: CAR refugees attacked as they flee to Cameroon

Each week 10,000 Muslims cross into eastern Cameroon to escape the violence consuming the Central African Republic (CAR). Many new arrivals report that they have been repeatedly attacked as they fled. The anti-Balaka militiamen have blocked main roads to Cameroon, forcing people to find alternate routes through the bush. Many are walking two to three months to reach Cameroon, arriving malnourished and bearing wounds from machetes and gunshots.

UNHCR and its partners have established additional mobile clinics at entry points to provide emergency care as refugees arrive. The UN refugee agency is also supporting public health centres that have been overwhelmed by the number of refugees and their condition.

Meanwhile, UNHCR has relocated some 20,000 refugees who had been living in the open in the Garoua Bouai and Kenzou border areas, bringing them to new sites at Lolo, Mborguene, Gado and Borgop in the East and Adamwa regions.

Since the beginning of the year, Cameroon has received nearly 70,000 refugees from CAR, adding to the 92,000 who fled in earlier waves since 2004 to escape rebel groups and bandits in the north of their country.

UNHCR staff members Paul Spiegel and Michele Poletto recently travelled to eastern Cameroon and have the following photos to share from their iPhone and camera.

2014: CAR refugees attacked as they flee to Cameroon

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