“Every day we pray for protection and peace.”
Boussam Abdulahi, Nigerian refugee
In 2018, the Nigerian refugee crisis will be going into its fifth year. Since extreme violent attacks of the Islamist sect Boko Haram spilled over the borders of north-eastern Nigeria into neighboring countries in 2014, Cameroon, Chad and Niger got drawn into a devastating regional conflict.
To date, the Lake Chad Basin region is grappling with a complex humanitarian emergency. Some 2.4 million people are uprooted, including over 1.9 million internally displaced (IDPs) in north-eastern Nigeria, over 471,000 IDPs in Cameroon, Chad and Niger and over 228,000 refugees.
The crisis has been exacerbated by conflict-induced food insecurity and severe malnutrition, which have risen to critical levels in all four countries. Despite the efforts of Governments and humanitarian aid in 2017, some 4.5 million people remain food insecure and will depend on assistance.
The challenges of protecting the displaced are compounded by a deteriorating security situation as well as socio-economic fragility, with communities in the Sahel region facing chronic poverty, a harsh climate, recurrent epidemics, poor infrastructure and limited access to basic services.
The Nigerian military, together with the Multinational Joint Task Force, have driven extremists from many of the areas they once controlled, but these gains have been overshadowed by an increase of Boko Haram attacks in neighbouring countries. Despite the return of Nigerian IDPs and refugees to accessible areas, the crisis remains acute.
What is UNHCR doing to help?
UNHCR has scaled up its response and is working with the authorities in north-eastern Nigeria, as well as with UN partners, to help displaced people and returning refugees regain a sense of normal life. This work includes efforts to ensure that their rights are respected, to provide legal and psycho-social support to victims of sexual abuse and gender-based violence, and to supply shelter and basic household items. We are also advocating for access to basic services as well as guaranteed peace and security, should returns be sustainable.
In neighbouring countries, we are working with the authorities to ensure that refugees are not forced to return to Nigeria against their will, and coordinating the humanitarian assistance provided by 47 UN agencies and NGO partners through our Regional Refugee Response Plan.