By Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
No fewer than 35,000 Nigerians have crossed into Cameroon in recent weeks with the escalation of communal crises in North-east Nigeria, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has revealed.
MSF equally called Doctors Without Borders, in a press release, said the latest migration followed an upsurge in violence around the North-east Nigerian town of Rann.
The statement said many of the Nigerian refugees having arrived in the village of Goura in Cameroon’s far northwest, are in urgent need of food, shelter and water.
The MSF said it has launched an emergency response to take care of the refugees.
According to the statement, the MSF Deputy Programme Manager for Emergencies, Dr Silas Adamou Moussa, quoted the refugees as saying: “They left on foot very early in the morning – women, children and elderly people. When they fled, they had to leave the elderly and sick relatives behind. They brought along what possessions they could, but in Goura they have nothing to drink and nowhere to sleep. They have been left to fend for themselves.
“The refugees have been staying in a large, informal camp in Goura since late January. Most are sleeping in the open, even though it is sandstorm season and the temperature drops sharply at night.
“The uncertainty surrounding whether these refugees will be resettled or returned to Nigeria prevents humanitarian assistance from being as complete and effective as it should be.”
Moussa lamented that: “In Goura they (Nigerian refugees) have nothing to drink and nowhere to sleep. They have been left to fend for themselves.”
The statement said MSF has set up a clinic in the camp. Over the past two weeks, with MSF medical staff providing more than 400 consultations.
“Thirty-five per cent of these were for infectious respiratory diseases, followed by diarrhoea and conjunctivitis, all of which are related to the refugees’ poor living conditions,” he said.
With access to safe drinking water been a major problem in the camp, Moussa said: “MSF has progressively increased its provision of drinking water along with that of other providers to 240,000 litres per day. This is equivalent to seven litres per person per day, which is still far below the 15-litre minimum standard for emergencies.
“This is not the first time that people from Rann have had to flee to Cameroon. The first time, some of them returned home after having fled, but not this time. They don’t want to go back to Rann unless they know they can live safely, yet their future here is also uncertain. They are afraid. Their children are afraid.”