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Cameroonian refugees seeking asylum in Nigeria hit 20, 000, says UNHCR

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The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has said that Camerounians seeking asylum in Nigeria has hit 20, 000 without humanitarian support for survival.

Announcing the increase yesterday in Geneva, Spokesman of UNHCR, Alkaterini Kitidi in a statement warned that refugees’ struggle for survival will be increasingly desperate.

He said the Anglophone Camero0nians commenced fleeing violence in October 2017 and continue to troop into Cross River, Taraba, Benue and Akwa-Ibom states.

According to him, over 20,000 refugees have been registered in the four states. “Women and children account for 80 per cent of the total registered
Cameroonian refugees in Nigeria,” said Kitidi.

He further disclosed that recent assessment by humanitarian groups indicated how grim the humanitarian situation has become in the four
affected states.

On the well being of refugees, Kitidi said: “Ninety-five per cent of the asylum seekers have no more than three days of food. Most families are down to one meal per day.

“The coping strategies people are using are themselves risky, and range from borrowing money to cutting food portions or saving food only for children.

“Most asylum seekers say they have to drink water from streams, ponds and other unsafe sources, because of inadequate or dysfunctional
drinking water facilities.”

He warned: “Essential relief items, such as clothing, blankets and plastic sheeting, are available to fewer than 25 per cent of them. Only five in every 100 Cameroonians have proper or independent shelter.”

The rest, according to Kitidi, have little or no privacy, squatting in rooms hosting on average 10 to 15 people.

He added: “Protection from the cold is lacking, increasing health concerns due to the imminent start of the rainy season.

“Malaria is reportedly already on the increase. Children commonly exhibit rapid breathing and coughing. Many participants at the assessment were suffering from fear and anxiety, poor sleep and
flashbacks.”

He said about 20 to 30 per cent of the asylum seekers have some kind of vulnerability, such as a physical disability.

Also, 75 per cent of Cameroonian children who recently fled to Nigeria cannot access school, because their families cannot afford to pay for books and uniforms.

He added that adults are also becoming more frustrated as they struggle to make ends meet.

“Our office has worked on a contingency plan of US$18 million to help cover their needs. However, so far no funds have been received, leading to immense challenges and gaps in the response,” lamented
Kitidi.

The UN agency also urged the Federal Government to refrain from forcible return of individuals who may have fled persecution in their country of origin and to respect the principle of no forced returns.


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