The number of Cameroonian refugees in Nigeria has crossed the 70,000- mark, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has said.
The UN Refugee Agency said nearly 80 per cent of the refugees are women and children.
According to the agency, the refugees are those who were displaced by violence in the English-speaking part of North-west and South-west regions of Cameroon during a conflict between secessionist non-state armed groups since 2017.
The UNHCR Country Representative for Nigeria, Chansa Kapaya, in a statement on Monday, called on the international community for urgent additional support for refugees in Nigeria.
Ms. Kapaya said: “This is not just a number, these are people behind these numbers, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters, people just like you and I, that have been forced to flee their homes to seek safety and save their lives, 70,000 refugees are 70,000 daughters and sons.
”Their dreams and plans were disrupted by violence in the North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon where a conflict between secessionist Non-State Armed Groups and the army has been displacing people from their homes since 2017. Recent arrivals and UNHCR’s protection monitoring confirm killings, abductions, forced evictions and other forms of violence, with armed groups attacking schools and hospitals.”
Cameroon, a bilingual country of both French and English as its official languages, has over the years been plagued with crises following claims by the Anglophone region of being marginalised by the Francophone side that makes up around 80 per cent of the country’s population.
Reports by UNHCR indicate that nearly 8,000 Cameroonian women, men and children have crossed Nigeria’s borders of Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Benue, Enugu, Cross River and Taraba States in the past 12 months, and many in hard-to-reach rural areas. About 59 percent of them were said to have found refuge in local communities.
More Support needed
The UN official said about US$97.7 million would be needed to help mitigate the pressing needs of shelter and food crises in several Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDPs) camps, given the current economic hit of COVID-19 and the refugee influx.
“UNHCR commends Nigeria because it is on its way to become a champion in implementing the Global Compact on Refugees, but Nigeria needs support,” Ms. Kapaya said, adding, “’The most pressing needs of Cameroonian refugees are food, shelter, improved health care and education as well as livelihood opportunities.”
He said further: ”The amount of support UNHCR can deliver is increasingly falling short. Cash for food, for instance, had to be reduced from 2019 due to insufficient funding. With rising food prices, the economic hit of COVID-19 and the refugee influx, needs are on the rise with serious risks of gender-based violence and negative copying mechanisms such as begging and survival sex.
”US$97.7 million is needed to respond to the needs of a total of some 78,000 refugees and asylum-seekers of different nationalities and to IDP needs – protection, camp management/coordination, shelter and non-food items such as blankets and jerry cans.”
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