By Prudence Arobani, New York
The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) says 35,000 Nigerian seeking refuge in Cameroon are safe.
The UN refugee agency said the estimated 35,000 Nigerians had fled across the north-eastern border into Cameroon in the last two weeks of January.
There had been concerns about the possible forceful ejection of the Nigerian refugees in Cameroon as the country had threatened severally.
There are also several thousands of Cameroonian refugees hosted across Nigeria.
“For now, the 35,000 Nigerian refugees are safe in Cameroon, although many are once again putting themselves at risk by returning to Rann on foot, to collect a few personal possessions which were not looted or burnt,” UNHCR said.
The UN agency said the people had fled Rann in the last two weeks after Boko Haram extremist fighters repeatedly attacked the town.
“The outlawed terrorist group has been active in this impoverished corner of north-east Nigeria for over a decade. Thousands of people not just in Nigeria but over the border in Cameroon and Chad, have been killed, many summarily executed.
“The livelihoods of tens of thousands of others have been destroyed in the insurgency, as regional governments struggle to put an end to the ongoing violence.
“The refugees left Rann following the recent withdrawal of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) which came to secure the city after an attack on January 14.
“The MNJTF was set up by the affected countries – Cameroon, Chad, Nigeria, Niger and Benin – to counter Boko Haram, and other terrorist groups which are gaining ground across the Lake Chad region,” UNHCR said.
Speaking on a visit to Goura in Cameroon on Friday, the UN Resident Coordinator in Cameroon, Allegra Baiocchi said: “I have seen many fearful people here, whose lives have been destroyed by Boko Haram.
“The people who came here really had no choice. This is where they need to be now if they want to stay alive.”
The United Nations and its partners have responded to the sudden influx into Goura by providing basic services in what is now a makeshift refugee settlement.
Some 13,000 people have received food ratios and each registered refugee is getting six litres of clean water a day, some way below the recommended 15 litres minimum.
The UNHCR top official in Cameroon, Geert de Casteele said in Goura that: “The response from humanitarian workers here has been impressive in what is an extremely challenging environment.
“We need to scale up the response keeping in mind the local population; that is the next step and I am hopeful we can achieve, with increased funding.”
In January, the UN, in coordination with the Government and aid partners, announced its 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan which focuses on the whole of the country, including areas affected by Boko Haram.
Around 4.3 million Cameroonians, mostly women and children, are now in need of lifesaving assistance, accordingto the UN.