Clashes in Cameroon’s Far North displace more than 100,000 people

UNHCR

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Matthew Saltmarsh to whom quoted text may be attributed at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Chad. Thousands flee intercommunal clashes over scarce resources in CameroonRefugees from Cameroon soon after arriving to Chad’s Chari Baguirmi region near the capital, N’Djamena. © UNHCR/Aristophane Ngargoune

Intercommunal clashes that erupted in Cameroon’s Far North region in the past two weeks have driven at least 100,000 people from their homes, although the real number may be much higher, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, said today.

UNHCR estimates that more than 85,000 people have fled into neighbouring Chad in recent days, while at least 15,000 Cameroonians have been forced from home inside their country. Since humanitarian access in the area is very limited, these totals may be much higher.

Indications are that displacement into Chad has accelerated fast, as the total is nearly triple the figure reported last week, when 30,000 people had crossed the border seeking safety.

Casualties from the fighting have also risen to 44 people killed and 111 injured, compared to 22 dead and 30 wounded reported last week. In total, 112 villages were burned down.

The vast majority of new arrivals in Chad are children, and 98 per cent of the adults are women. Some 48,000 have found refuge in 18 urban sites in N’Djamena, the capital of Chad, and 37,000 people are scattered across 10 rural sites along Chad’s bank of the Logone River.

Along with the authorities, UNHCR, other UN agencies and humanitarian partners are rushing to deliver life-saving assistance. The agency has declared a Level 2 emergency and is rapidly scaling its operations to assist affected people in Cameroon and new refugees in Chad.

Refugees are in dire need of shelter, blankets, mats and hygienic kits. Some are being generously hosted by local communities, but most are still sleeping in the open and under trees.

UNHCR and Médecins Sans Frontières have deployed mobile clinics to most of the refugee sites. Medical screening is ongoing and patients in need are referred to national health care facilities. UNHCR, the Chadian Red Cross and the Agency of Social and Economic Development, a Chadian NGO, have been delivering hot meals at all refugee sites.

Additionally, our teams are assisting the Government to identify new hosting sites located further from the border to better protect refugees in line with international standards.

In Far North Cameroon, security forces have been deployed and disarmament operations are underway. While few incidents have been reported during the past week, tensions remain high.

UNHCR still cannot access Logone Birni rural district where the clashes started, due to insecurity. Our teams in the cities of Maroua and Kousseri are assessing the protection and humanitarian needs of people displaced inside the country. Many of the displaced report difficulties finding safe water and have no access to latrines; concerning hygiene issues are on the rise.

Clashes initially broke out on 5 December in the border village of Ouloumsa following a dispute between herders and fishermen and farmers over dwindling water resources. The climate crisis is exacerbating the competition for resources, especially water. The surface of Lake Chad has decreased by as much as 95 per cent in the past 60 years.

UNHCR and Cameroonian authorities had been leading reconciliation efforts, organizing a forum in early December, during which community representatives committed to end the violence. But without urgent action to address the root causes of the crisis, the situation could escalate further.

UNHCR is calling for the support of the international community to assist the forcibly displaced and reiterates its call for reconciliation to end the violence so that people can return home safely.

Chad is home to nearly one million refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) and Cameroon to more than 1.5 million refugees and IDPs.

Financial resources to respond to the situation in both countries remain critically low. UNHCR’s requirements for 2021 in Cameroon (US$99.6 million) and Chad (US$141 million) are only 52 per cent and 54 per cent funded respectively. More support is urgently needed to help UNHCR respond to the new scale of the situation.

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