Yaounde — "People will go hungry"
Hundreds of thousands of people who sought shelter in Cameroon after fleeing violence will go hungry unless funds are made available, the United Nations deputy emergencies chief said.
Ursula Mueller said donors had provided just 5 percent of the $305 million needed for Cameroon this year.
"Given the magnitude of the crisis of displaced people ... no country can cope with the influx of so many people," Mueller told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Sunday upon her return from Cameroon's Far North region.
The refugee crisis in Cameroon stems largely from fighting in the neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR).
In addition, tens of thousands of Nigerians have fled into Cameroon to escape attacks by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, which began an insurgency in 2009 in a bid to create an Islamic state.
Boko Haram has also attacked in Cameroon's north, worsening the crisis.
Today 3.3 million people need help - an increase of nearly 15 percent compared with 2017, the U.N. said.
Funding remains the biggest challenge, Mueller said.
"If the funding is not forthcoming, we can't provide the services people need and people will go hungry," she said, adding that it was unclear how long refugees would have to stay.
Cameroon hosts 89,000 Nigerian refugees and 237,000 CAR refugees. Boko Haram violence has displaced a further 236,000 Cameroonians, the U.N. said.
Mueller commended host communities in Cameroon who often act as "the first humanitarians" in providing assistance.
"I was also really impressed by the humanitarian response in the refugee camp in Minawao," she said - a camp which is home to over 60,000 Nigerian refugees.
"There's some community life, there are schools, there are health services, and people are living in dignity to get the assistance and protection they need," she said.
Mueller visited the CAR last week. This week she will go to Chad to meet more of those affected by Boko Haram's attacks.
"The purpose of my visit is to tell them 'you're not forgotten'," she said. (Reporting by Inna Lazareva, Editing by Robert Carmichael.; Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)