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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New refugees from Central African Republic struggle with ration cuts in southern Chad

Since January 2014, a funding shortfall has forced the World Food Programme (WFP) to cut food rations by 60 per cent in refugee camps in southern Chad. The reduction comes as thousands of refugees from Central African Republic (CAR) continue to arrive in the south - more than 14,000 of them since the beginning of 2014. Many arrive sick, malnourished and exhausted after walking for months in the bush with little food or water. They join some 90,000 other CAR refugees already in the south - some of them for years.

The earlier refugees have been able to gain some degree of self-reliance through agriculture or employment, thus making up for some of the food cuts. But the new arrivals, fleeing the latest round of violence in their homeland, are facing a much harsher reality. And many of them - particularly children - will struggle to survive because WFP has also been forced cut the supplemental feeding programmes used to treat people trying to recover from malnutrition.

WFP needs to raise US$ 186 million to maintain feeding programmes for refugees in Africa through the end of the year. Additionally, UNHCR is urgently seeking contributions towards the US$ 78 million it has budgeted this year for food security and nutrition programmes serving refugees in Africa.

Photojournalist Corentin Fohlen and UNHCR Public Information Officer Céline Schmitt visited CAR refugees in southern Chad to document their plight and how they're trying to cope.

New refugees from Central African Republic struggle with ration cuts in southern Chad

Food cuts in Chad camps expose refugee women and children to exploitation, abuse

A funding shortfall has forced the World Food Programme (WFP) to cut food rations in refugee camps in eastern Chad by up to 60 per cent. As a result, Sudanese refugees in 13 camps in the east now receive about 850 calories per day, down from the minimum ration of 2,100 calories daily they used to get. The refugees are finding it difficult to cope. Clinics in the area report a significant spike in malnutrition cases, with rates as high as 19.5 per cent in Am Nabak camp.

WFP needs to raise US$ 186 million to maintain feeding programmes for refugees in Africa through the end of the year. Additionally, UNHCR is urgently seeking contributions towards the US$ 78 million it has budgeted this year for food security and nutrition programmes serving refugees in Africa.

In the meantime, the refugees experiencing ration cuts have few options. Poor soil quality, dry conditions and little access to water mean they can't plant supplemental crops as refugees in the less arid south of Chad are able to do. To try to cope, many refugee women in eastern Chad are leaving the camps in search of work in surrounding towns. They clean houses, do laundry, fetch water and firewood and work as construction labourers. Even so, they earn very little and often depend on each other for support. In the town of Iriba, for example, some 50 refugee women sleep rough each night under a tree and share their some of their meagre earnings to pay for a daily, communal meal.

They are also subject to exploitation. Sometimes, their temporary employers refuse to pay them at the end of the day. And some women and girls have resorted to prostitution to earn money to feed their families.

Ration cuts can have an impact far beyond health, reverberating through the entire community. It is not uncommon for children to be pulled out of school on market days in order to work. Many refugees use a portion of their food rations to barter for other essentials, or to get cash to pay school fees or buy supplies for their children. Small business owners like butchers, hairdressers and tailors - some of them refugees - also feel the pinch.

WFP supplies food to some 240,500 Sudanese refugees in the camps of eastern Chad. Many have been in exile for years and, because of their limited opportunities for self-sufficiency, remain almost totally dependent on outside help. The ration cuts have made an already difficult situation much worse for refugees who were already struggling.

Food cuts in Chad camps expose refugee women and children to exploitation, abuse

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

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Cameroon: Malnourished Children

Some 80,000 people from Central African Republic have fled to Cameroon this year, many of them after walking for weeks or months through the bush with almost no food and water. Many of the children have severe malnutrition. UNHCR and its partners are rushing to help them.