UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is launching a supplementary appeal for an additional US$9.5 million to scale up its activities in north-east Nigeria, as a result of an unexpected surge in self-organized returns of Nigerian refugees since the beginning of the year, mainly from Cameroon.
“This is a new emergency, which requires urgent attention. Many of these returnees are unable to go back to their homes due to security concerns and end up being displaced again, in dire humanitarian conditions. Even if UNHCR does not promote or facilitate these returns, we must do everything we can to assist these vulnerable people,” said Volker Türk, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection.
Many returnees stay in camps and displacement sites in precarious and overcrowded conditions. The situation is particularly difficult in the town of Banki, in north-east Nigeria, where many are forced to live outdoors and have limited access to drinking water, food and medicine.
“During my recent visit to the region, I was not only appalled by the scale of the humanitarian needs, but also deeply shocked at the level of trauma, social division and distrust,” said Türk, who visited both Nigeria and Cameroon over the past three weeks.
“We urge the international community to pay more attention to this highly complex and challenging humanitarian and security situation,” said the UNHCR official.
As vulnerabilities increase over time, funding is, unfortunately, lagging behind needs. So far, UNHCR has received US$41.1 million from donors out of a total funding requirement of US$179.5 million for 2017 for Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad.
“The current funding for the relief effort does not do justice to the exceptional hospitality offered by host governments and communities,” said Valentin Tapsoba, Director of UNHCR’s Regional Bureau for Africa, during a donor briefing on the Nigeria situation on 24 July, 2017.
Additional funding would allow UNHCR to increase its presence in border locations and improve border and protection monitoring. The UN Refugee Agency also plans to expand reception facilities and launch mass information campaigns to ensure that Nigerian refugees in Cameroon’s Far North have accurate and updated information on the situation prevailing in areas of return in Nigeria.