By Prudence Arobani
New York – The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is stepping up its presence in south-eastern Nigeria, to provide life-saving support to thousands of people fleeing unrest in English-speaking areas of Cameroon.
UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic said tensions between security forces and pro-independence demonstrators in Cameroon’s restive Anglophone region intensified in October.
Mahecic said “Joint UNHCR and government teams had registered some 7,204 arrivals in remote areas of Nigeria’s Cross River state.
“As they report, thousands more are awaiting registration.
“Some 70 per cent of the registered asylum seekers come from the area of Akwaya in south-west Cameroon.
“Women and children in their majority, they are hosted by local communities near the border.
“As the unrest in Cameroon continues and more asylum seekers arrive, UNHCR is concerned that the local population’s capacity will soon be stretched to its limits”.
According to him, heavy wet season rains have worsened the state of the road network in the remote region, hampering efforts to deliver aid.
The UNHCR spokesperson said the UN refugee agency and partners distributed food, basic relief items and medical aid.
Mahecic said UNHCR was also deploying more staff in the region and coordinated with partners, national and local authorities to ensure that the needs of all affected people were met.
According to him, however, additional resources will be necessary to support the arrivals and reinforce UNHCR’s coordination and response efforts.
“Currently, UNHCR in Nigeria and partners have elaborated a contingency plan in the event of new arrivals,” Mahecic said.