NE Nigeria insecurity sees refugee outflows spreading to Cameroon

News Stories, 18 June 2013

© UNHCR/C.Arnaud
Ismael Bahla fled with his three wives and 13 children from Nigeria to Niger. Many Nigerians from Borno state have left since fighting began in May between Nigerian forces and Boko Haram.

GENEVA, 18 June (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency said on Tuesday the on-going crisis in northeastern Nigeria's Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe States is causing new arrivals of refugees in Niger, and now in Cameroon.

"In Cameroon, a UNHCR team visited areas along the Nigeria-Cameroon border in the Far North region on Friday," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told a briefing in Geneva. "They reported the presence of over 3,000 Nigerians."

Crossings of Nigerians into Cameroon began a week ago, with people reporting they had fled a confrontation between the Nigerian army and Boko Haram insurgents some 10 kilometres from border.

Most of those who have arrived are women and children. They are being hosted in churches and schools, and rely on food from churches and local population. UNHCR said it was working with the authorities to relocate the refugees to safer places away from the border.

Meanwhile in Niger, the UN refugee agency said it had sent aid by trucks from Niamey to the southeastern Diffa region, where over 6,000 persons have arrived from northern Nigeria in the past weeks. That includes 2,692 Nigerian nationals as well as 3,544 returning Niger nationals and others, mainly Chadians. Mats, blankets, jerry cans, soap, buckets, mosquito nets and kitchen items have been pre-positioned in Diffa, Bosso, Kablewa and Menesewa for distribution to both Nigerian refugees and Nigerian returnees.

"Most new arrivals in Niger are women and children coming from rural villages across the border and from Maiduguri and Baga towns," said Edwards.

People are still arriving in Niger. On 11 June, gunshots were heard in Malam Fatouri, a village on the Nigeria side, near the border, prompting most of the population to flee into Niger, UNHCR said. They travelled by foot and motorcycles and found refuge with host families just across the border.

Hundreds of new arrivals have also been reported in an area some 60 km north of Diffa, local authorities told UNHCR. At the same time, UNHCR teams observed that some displaced persons from Nigeria are returning home after a few days in Niger or shuttling between the two countries depending on the security situation in Nigeria.

In Chad there have been no further arrivals of Nigerians beyond the 155 received last week. There the border is officially closed.

The Nigerian government imposed a state of emergency on the Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states in the northeast of the country in May.

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Silent Success

Despite being chased from their homes in the Central African Republic and losing their livelihoods, Mbororo refugees have survived by embracing a new way of life in neighbouring Cameroon.

The Mbororo, a tribe of nomadic cattle herders from Central African Republic, started fleeing their villages in waves in 2005, citing insecurity as well as relentless targeting by rebel groups and bandits who steal their cattle and kidnap women and children for ransom.

They arrived in the East and Adamaoua provinces of Cameroon with nothing. Though impoverished, the host community welcomed the new arrivals and shared their scant resources. Despite this generosity, many refugees died of starvation or untreated illness.

Help arrived in 2007, when UNHCR and partner agencies began registering refugees, distributing food, digging and rehabilitating wells as well as building and supplying medical clinics and schools, which benefit refugees and the local community and promote harmony between them. The Mbororo were eager to learn a new trade and set up farming cooperatives. Though success didn't come immediately, many now make a living from their crops.

Mbororo refugees continue to arrive in Central African Republic - an average of 50 per month. The long-term goal is to increase refugees' self-reliance and reduce their dependency on humanitarian aid.

Silent Success

2014: CAR refugees attacked as they flee to Cameroon

Each week 10,000 Muslims cross into eastern Cameroon to escape the violence consuming the Central African Republic (CAR). Many new arrivals report that they have been repeatedly attacked as they fled. The anti-Balaka militiamen have blocked main roads to Cameroon, forcing people to find alternate routes through the bush. Many are walking two to three months to reach Cameroon, arriving malnourished and bearing wounds from machetes and gunshots.

UNHCR and its partners have established additional mobile clinics at entry points to provide emergency care as refugees arrive. The UN refugee agency is also supporting public health centres that have been overwhelmed by the number of refugees and their condition.

Meanwhile, UNHCR has relocated some 20,000 refugees who had been living in the open in the Garoua Bouai and Kenzou border areas, bringing them to new sites at Lolo, Mborguene, Gado and Borgop in the East and Adamwa regions.

Since the beginning of the year, Cameroon has received nearly 70,000 refugees from CAR, adding to the 92,000 who fled in earlier waves since 2004 to escape rebel groups and bandits in the north of their country.

UNHCR staff members Paul Spiegel and Michele Poletto recently travelled to eastern Cameroon and have the following photos to share from their iPhone and camera.

2014: CAR refugees attacked as they flee to Cameroon

Malian refugees flee for safety to Niger

Thousands of Malian families have arrived in Niger since mid-January, fleeing fighting between a rebel Tuareg movement and Malian government forces in northern Mali. Refugees are living in makeshift settlements along the border, exposed to the sun and wind by day, and cold at night. UNHCR has started distributing relief assistance and is planning to open camps in safer areas further away from the border. UNHCR's Helene Caux met with some the refugees who all expressed their desire to return to their country once peace prevails.

Malian refugees flee for safety to Niger

Cameroon: A Young Victim of ViolencePlay video

Cameroon: A Young Victim of Violence

Militia attacks on civilians in Central African Republic have left many people, including children, dead or badly injured. Six-year-old Ibrahim is recovering from one such attack, lucky to be alive.
Cameroon:  Malnourished ChildrenPlay video

Cameroon: Malnourished Children

Some 80,000 people from Central African Republic have fled to Cameroon this year, many of them after walking for weeks or months through the bush with almost no food and water. Many of the children have severe malnutrition. UNHCR and its partners are rushing to help them.
Niger: Flight from Nigeria
Play video

Niger: Flight from Nigeria

People escaping the fighting between the Nigerian army and Boko Haram rebels get a friendly welcome in Niger.