Almost 8,000 Cameroonian refugees have fled to Nigeria's eastern and southern states of Taraba and Cross Rivers over the past fortnight, bringing the total Cameroonian refugee population in the country to nearly 60,000 people.
UNHCR, the UN refugee Agency, expects further arrivals as refugees inform that more people are still in remote border areas and could be on their way trying to reach Nigeria.
This latest influx took place just before Cameroon's general elections last weekend as people fled ongoing violence between security forces and armed groups. The exodus comes on top of increased internal displacement witnessed in Cameroon's Northwest and Southwest regions in the last quarter of 2019.
Refugees reported fleeing violence and some even arrived across the border with gunshot wounds. According to new arrivals, most come from areas near the border and have trekked across savannah and forests to reach Nigeria.
Local communities and governments are the first responders to this latest influx, providing food, shelter and household items that are desperately needed for those who have left everything behind.
Refugees who just arrived are currently being sheltered in public schools and health facilities or with local families. The 51,000 registered refugees that arrived prior to this latest influx are being hosted across some 87 local communities in the states of Akwa-Ibom, Benue, Cross River and Taraba. In addition, there are four settlements where UNHCR and humanitarian partners are providing protection, food, livelihood, shelter and healthcare.
"UNHCR is working closely with the Nigerian authorities to ensure that refugees are able to access shelter and basic services. Together we are supporting both refugees and their hosts given pressing humanitarian needs and to ensure there is no strain on local communities given their modest resources," said UNHCR's Deputy Representative in Nigeria, Roger Hollo.
"Refugees also need support to become self-reliant. With access to education, health services and labour markets, they can take care of their families and give back to the local communities hosting them."
Food, shelter and health assistance remain urgent needs for new arrivals. Schools are also unable to accommodate all newly arrived refugee children, with some classrooms hosting more than 200 children at a time.
According to UN estimates, more than 679,000 people are currently internally displaced in Cameroon's Northwest and Southwest regions, in addition to the almost 60,000 that have crossed the border, seeking asylum in Nigeria.
In Nigeria, UNHCR leads the international response to protect those forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution.
For more information on this topic, please contact:
In Dakar, Romain Desclous, [email protected].org, +221 786 396 385
In Geneva, Shabia Mantoo, [email protected], +41 79 337 76 50