GENEVA, Jan 31 — The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is appealing for more funds to help address the recent exodus of refugees into Cameroon from Nigeria, saying that a risk in attacks on both sides of that border has made it increasingly risky for humanitarian agencies to operate there.
The security situation in Central Africa has significantly deteriorated in the last month. Boko Haram attacked several cross-border villages in northern Cameroon, raising fears that the insurgent group is expanding its attacks. Following the spate of violence, Chad announced that it was sending soldiers to Cameroon to halt the attacks from spreading.
At a press briefing, WFP spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs said that despite the increasing insecurity, the agency is planning to assist 96,068 people in Cameroon, including Nigerian refugees, internally displaced person (IDPs) and vulnerable local populations.
“New population movements into Cameroon from Nigeria have been reported in recent weeks in addition to increasing displacement of local population fleeing from border areas, where whole villages had been destroyed and services closed,” she said.
“Movements have been hampered, which has had a direct impact on access to land, as well as on economic and market activities that depended on movements between towns and across the border. The planting season has also been disrupted. Local communities are affected and food insecurity was on the increase,” added Byrs.
She specified that some 29,000 Nigerian refugees are currently being hosted in a refugee site in Minawao, Far North region in Cameroon. WFP has been providing food to those arriving to the camps. Many women and children arrive malnourished.
The Programme is supporting health centres in affected areas to treat malnourished children between six months and five years and pregnant and nursing women. Some 365 refugee children and 100 pregnant and nursing women have received nutritional support so far.
WFP has also initiated the first distribution of aid to some 20,000 IDPs in the three most affected departments of the Far North. Due to breaks in commodity supplies, a second round has not yet been realized.
In Cameroon, she said, about 20,000 to 30,000 persons had been internally displaced by attacks in three divisions of the Far North region. There were around 36,400 Nigerian refugees in that region of Cameroon.
Turning to funding, Byrs said WFP’s financial requirements for 2015 for the Cameroon Emergency Operation are estimated at $23 million, but the initiative is currently facing a shortfall of 65 percent or $15 million of total requirements.
Visiting Africa this weekend, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on the current crises in northern Nigeria and across the region.