The number of Cameroonian refugees in neighbouring Nigeria from conflict in the English-speaking regions of the North-West and South-West has crossed the 30,000 mark, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said Monday in a statement.
About 21,000 live in host communities in more than 50 localities, spread over 116,000 square kilometres; while more than 9,000 have been transferred to new facilities where they receive a variety of support, including cash assistance allowance in some cases.
According to UNHCR, Cameroonian refugees are housed in the Nigerian states of Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Benue and Taraba, where most are hosted in local communities.
As many as 48 per cent are of school age, but many have not attended school for more than two years.
Meanwhile, the UN agency is facilitating the voluntary relocation of refugees from border crossings to new facilities in Adagom (Cross River) and Anyake (Benue), which provide greater security and better quality shelter, as well as access to essential services such as food, health care and education.
“Many said they have been ordered to leave their homes in the context of increased violence in their communities,” the institution said, but it is unclear whether the order came from separatist activists or the army.
As official border crossings remain closed, UNHCR and its partners, according to the statement, are present in the border areas on the Nigerian side, close to most of the most heavily-used informal border crossings, in order to assess the situation and the needs of newcomers.
The rainy season and poor road conditions in remote areas are causing humanitarian workers concern, making it very difficult to provide aid to refugees outside the new facilities, as the need for food, shelter, water and sanitation is high.
Within Cameroon, where the number of people displaced by the crisis is estimated at 436,000, access to the affected areas of the North-West and South-West is extremely limited, and humanitarian agencies are discussing with the government the need to improve access to these needy people.
Since early 2018, UNHCR added, based on data from human rights groups, about 400 civilians have been killed in the escalation violence involving separatist groups and government forces.