Thousands of people have fled northeastern Nigeria to Cameroon to escape attacks by militants. We met Sarah at the Minawao camp, 120 kms east of the border, where WFP is providing food assistance to the refugees. Here’s the dramatic story of her escape from the militia.
Some 29,000 refugees have settled in Minawao, a refugee camp set up by the U.N. and Cameroon’s government, about 120 kilometres east of the border.
However, many other refugees still live in churches, schools, or with host families in border areas where the security situation is volatile. Most of the refugees are women and children arriving on foot without possessions. They arrive hungry and exhausted from a long journey.
Attacks by armed groups are also on the rise in northern Cameroon resulting in increasing displacement of local people who are fleeing from border areas, where whole villages have been destroyed and services closed. Health facilities along the border have closed down due to insecurity and those remaining operational are under pressure from increasing numbers of people in need of help.
The Story – How Sarah Escaped
Minawao, Eastern Cameroon – Sarah, a mother of six, fled Goza in Nigeria’s Borno state in late January to escape the militants. We met her just after she arrived on a truck in the Minawao camp and she told us her story of how she had escaped her village in Nigeria.
“Two months ago, Boko Haram came and left a note in our village – if you don’t convert we will kill you – they said that they would be back again in a couple of days to see who has converted.” “Boko Haram came and they left a note in our village: If you don’t convert we will kill you”
“They came on motorbikes, with cars and on foot, they killed and burned churches and other property”, she says. “They wanted to convert Christians to Muslims so many Christians fled, but we decided to stay, to do as they say so that they wouldn’t kill us”.
“Then they gathered all people from the village in one school – they asked – who is going to Jihad”.”They said that if you don’t go to Jihad you would have problems in your house. The ones who said no were killed”.
“They killed more than half of all the people in the village. They had dug a hole nearby where they put the dead bodies”.
“One of my children was killed when escaping, but I couldn’t stop and look behind, I had to continue running with the rest of my children to get them into safety”Then they were searching from house to house for people who were not following their rules.
They say women should not go out. They were accusing us of not following their rules. They came to our house at 3pm and they started killing, I run as fast as I could with my children, I didn’t take anything with me. One of my children was killed when escaping, but I couldn’t stop and look behind, I had to continue running with the rest of my children to get them into safety”.
She fled for her life to Cameroon, where she spent the night in a border village and in the morning she boarded a truck to the Minawao camp.
“They told us that we could get food and housing here. I used my last money to pay the truck driver – 5,000 francs – and he brought me here together with some 50 other people. I don’t have anything else”.
She says she will not go back to Nigeria: “What would I do there? I will try to stay in a city anywhere here in Cameroon. I just want to find a place where my children can be in safety”.
WFP Assistance in Cameroon
WFP is providing food on a monthly basis to all refugees upon the arrival in the Minawao camp. To date, some 25,000 Nigerian refugees have received WFP’s food assistance.
As many children and women are affected by malnutrition, WFP has reinforced support to health centers in affected areas to treat malnourished children between 06-59 months and pregnant and nursing women.
Some 365 refugee children and 100 pregnant and nursing women have received nutritional support so far. WFP also plans to launch a Supplementary Feeding programme in the camp providing special nutritious foods to prevent acute malnutrition in children under the age of five.
Source : United Nations World Food Programme