Central Africa: UN agency delivers food to thousands of refugees on Nigeria-Chad border

Nigerians on the island of Choua in Chad's inaccessible lac region. Photo: UNICEF/Guy Yogo

23 January 2015 – With a “tense and highly volatile” situation in North-Eastern Nigeria at the Chadian Lac border, United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced today that it has begun distributing food to thousands of refugees who have recently been displaced by the region’s escalating violence and urged that it required some $11 million to continue to meet those needs.

Distribution of 159 tons of WFP rations started today in the border region in Baga Sola, and the agency is planning a first round of distributions for 10 days to more than 7,800 refugees from Ngouboua in Nigeria, of whom 4,103 are new arrivals, WFP spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs told reporters at a press conference in Geneva.

The situation in the Central Africa region has been deteriorating in recent months. Just last weekend, Boko Haram insurgents pillaged villages and abducted some 80 people in Cameroon in one of the group's biggest kidnappings to take place outside of Nigeria. This sparked fears through-out region that the insurgents were gaining ground and expanding their attacks.

On Monday, Chad’s Government said it would deploy troops to Cameroon to help fight the armed group and keep the violence from spreading to other countries.

WFP was able to able to respond to the first wave of 6,250 refugees within 48 hours of their arrival, with an emergency ration of two days, Ms. Byrs said. There are currently more than 13,000 refugees in North-Eastern Nigeria at the Lake Chad border, according to the latest statistics from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).

Ms. Byrs today expressed concern over the impact this refugee migration will have host communities. Prior to the crisis, the November 2014 emergency food security assessment showed that areas within the Lac Region were food insecure. At that time, 32 per cent of the population was found to be food insecure while the global acute malnutrition rates were above 15 per cent, above the World Health Organization (WHO) 'critical' threshold.

There has also been an impact on trade flow. Chad had previously exported cattle to Nigeria through the Lac Region and most of this trade had been recently affected by the crisis. The income of livestock keepers in the region has also been affected. Maize farmers who exported their grains to Nigeria are affected as well. The decrease of trade also has had a negative impact on Kanem and Bar El Ghazal‘s regions, which had the highest level of food insecurity in Chad.

She added that many of the refugees were currently located in several hard to reach small islands on Lake Chad. In the coming weeks, the Government and humanitarian partners plan to relocate them on a voluntary basis to areas where they can be reached.


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