Nigerians flee from insurgent attacks into Chad

Briefing Notes, 5 August 2014

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ariane Rummery to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 5 August 2014, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Some thousand people fleeing attacks by Boko Haram on the Nigerian city of Kolikolia, in Borno State, arrived last Thursday on the uninhabited island of Choua in Lake Chad. The island lies in Chadian waters about four kilometres from where the borders of Chad, Nigeria and Niger intersect.

Refugees reported that they fled violence and attacks on their village that resulted in the destruction of their houses and food reserves.

The group, which includes mainly women and children, is in urgent need of food, water, shelter and medical care.

At the request of the government of Chad, the refugees will be relocated to the safer and more accessible hosting area in Ngouboua, some 30 kilometres from the border, where a number of Nigerian refugees and Chadian returned refugees already live among hosting villages.

Chadian authorities have provided two helicopters for the relocation of refugees from Choua to Ngouboua, which is expected to begin on Wednesday.

UNHCR and its partners (WFP, UNICEF, WHO, OCHA and UNFPA, among others) have sent aid packages including high energy biscuits, water purification kits, mosquito nets, communal tents, sleeping mats and other household items to Ngouboua.

The newly arrived refugees report that more Nigerians are likely to arrive in Chad soon. In line with UNHCR's strategy to seek alternatives to camps, newly arrived refugees from Nigeria will be settled in villages in and around Ngouboua, with assistance also provided to the host population.

UNHCR is establishing a field office in the Lake Chad area to monitor the situation, coordinate the response with partners on the ground, and ensure protection and assistance to refugees.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Geneva, Ariane Rummery on mobile +41 79 200 7617
  • In N'djamena, Massoumeh Farman-Farmaian on mobile +235 68 000 530
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Victims of Conflict in Nigeria Find Safety in Cameroon Camp

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres visited Cameroon in late March to put a spotlight on the situation there of tens of thousands of refugees from Nigeria. These people have escaped mounting violence by insurgents in the north-east of their country. Among the places that Guterres visited during his March 24-25 visit is the Minawao Refugee Camp, where many of the uprooted have been relocated.

Situated some 120 kilometres from the dangerous border area with Nigeria in Cameroon's Far North region, Minawao camp is currently home to 33,000 Nigerian refugees, mainly from Borno state. Many of the arrivals are traumatized and in need of material and psycho-social help. They told the High Commissioner of losing their homes and belongings as well as members of their families. Some were injured. In total, an estimated 74,000 Nigerians have found refuge in Cameroon while cross-border incursions from Nigeria have displaced 96,000 Cameroonians. UNHCR photographer Hélène Caux also visited Minawao to hear the individual stories.

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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.

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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.

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