UN refugee chief Guterres visits Nigerian refugees in Northern Cameroon

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Karin de Gruijl to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

High Commissioner António Guterres has started a two-day visit to Cameroon, a country wedged between two of today's major displacement crises in Africa: Nigeria and the Central African Republic. More than 74,000 Nigerian refugees have crossed into the Far North region of Cameroon according to the authorities, including some 25,000 who escaped clashes between the regional military forces and insurgents in north-eastern Nigeria in the month of February alone.

Because of the highly insecure situation in the border areas in the Far North region, UNHCR has been moving the refugees to Minawao refugee camp, located some 90 kilometres from the regional capital Maroua. Mr. Guterres will visit Minawao on Wednesday to hear the refugees' testimonies first hand and see the conditions in the camp, which is now home to nearly 33,000 Nigerian refugees. The relocation exercise is ongoing, but, despite the insecurity, many refugees prefer to stay close to the border either to wait for relatives, take care of their cattle or return home as soon as the situation there improves.

The High Commissioner will also meet with some of the estimated 96,000 Cameroonians who have been internally displaced by the regular incursions by insurgents into the country and offer UNHCR's support to help cover their most urgent needs. This support consists of shelter and basic household items for the internally displaced, projects to improve local health and other facilities, as well as interventions to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence and strengthen the protection of children.

In addition to the refugees from Nigeria, Cameroon is also hosting more than 244,000 refugees from the Central African Republic, including nearly 139,000 who fled the country since December 2013. The High Commissioner will discuss both humanitarian crises with the Minister Secretary General Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh and thank the Cameroonian government and people for their generous open door policy and hospitality towards refugees. They will also discuss the support that is needed to improve the living conditions for the refugees, internally displaced people and the host communities in Cameroon.

The violence in north-eastern Nigeria has forced more than 192,000 people to flee across the border into neighbouring Cameroon (74,000, of whom UNHCR has pre-registered 42,000), Chad (18,000) and Niger (over 100,000 according to authorities). In addition, nearly 1.2 million people are internally displaced in north-eastern Nigeria. In February, the UN Refugee Agency issued an appeal for a total of USD 71 million for life-saving protection and assistance activities in Nigeria and the neighbouring countries. The needs described in this appeal have however already been surpassed and we are preparing an updated one for release in the coming weeks. Thus far, only USD 6.8 million in contributions have been received for this crisis, making it one of UNHCR's most underfunded emergencies worldwide.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Cameroon: Helene Caux on mobile +221 77 333 1291 or +237 672 363 300
  • In Cameroon: Djerassem Mbaiorem on mobile +237 670 401 841
  • In Geneva: Karin de Gruijl on mobile +41 79 255 9213