The number of Anglophone Cameroonians seeking asylum in Nigeria has doubled since mid-January. Without urgent international support, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, warns that their struggle for survival will be increasingly desperate.
Anglophone Cameroonians began fleeing violence in October 2017 and continue to pour into Nigeria’s Cross River, Taraba, Benue and Akwa-Ibom states. In total, over 30,000 refugees have been registered in the area. Women and children account for four-fifths of the population.
A spokesperson for UNHCR , Mr Babar Baloch, highlighted that the needs on the ground to cater for the refugees in Nigeria were outpacing donor efforts.
Baloch said reports indicated that scores of people had been killed in English – speaking areas of Cameroon and thousands forced from their homes including many who have sought refuge in Nigeria.
He said the situation was particularly worrying for women and children – accounting for close to 80 per cent of arrivals – and most refugees are sheltering in Nigeria’ s south – eastern areas, hosted by local communities.
The UNHCR boss said the refugee agency was facilitating voluntary relocation of refugees to settlements in Cross River and Benue provinces, which provide better security, shelter and access to essential services.
“Currently, more than 9,000 Cameroonian refugees have been moved to new settlements, where they receive food as well as essential items such as mattresses , mosquito nets , stoves and cooking utensils, as well as equipment to build shelters, ” Baloch said.
The UNHCR spokesperson added that women and girls were also being provided with dignity kits, including among other items, buckets, soap and towels.
In some instances, cash assistance is provided to enable refugees to buy food directly from the markets in host communities, helping facilitate the integration of those forced to flee and those welcoming them , he stated.
“However, despite the work of UNHCR and other aid organizations, the needs are far from being met and there are several challenges, including education opportunities for refugee children.
“The rainy season and harsh road conditions to remote areas make the assistance to the refugees outside of the newly- developed settlement very difficult, with acute needs for food, shelter, water and sanitation, ” he said.
Baloch explained that discussions were ongoing with the Government for improved access to the displaced population.