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Presence of Boko Haram Islamists has led to Humanitarian Crisis in Northeast Nigeria, says UN Refugee Agency

UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said aid agencies could not move around freely amid the continuing military campaign

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Crisis in Nigeria. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
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A catastrophic humanitarian situation is unfolding in northeast Nigeria, where Boko Haram Islamists have displaced nearly 2 million people since 2013, the U.N. refugee agency said Friday.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said the extent of the suffering to which Boko Haram victims have been subjected was only now becoming visible. It said government forces’ advances into the Islamist group’s previous stronghold in northeast Nigeria had exposed the destitution of the displaced population.

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UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said aid agencies could not move around freely amid the continuing military campaign. He said that the situation in the region remained dangerous and volatile and that it was impossible to go to some areas without a military escort.

Adrian Edwards. Image source: Twitter
Adrian Edwards. Image source: Twitter

Edwards said the suffering in Borno and Yobe states was shocking. He cited numerous reports of human rights violations, including deaths, sexual violence, disappearances, forced recruitment, forced religious conversions and attacks on civilian sites.

He said the population of Bama, the largest city in Borno after the capital, Maiduguri, had been deeply traumatized. Many of the displaced are women, children and the elderly, he said.

“We have seen adults so exhausted they are unable to move, children with swollen faces and hollow eyes and other clear indications of acute malnutrition,” Edwards said. “Many also show signs of severe trauma. We have people screaming at night. We have aggression among children. People complain about a lack of food and water.”

Regional crisis

Edwards said that with the lack of security along the borders with Niger, Chad, and northern Cameroon, the insurgency in northeast Nigeria had turned into a vast regional crisis, with immense suffering among both the Nigerian refugees and internally displaced nationals.

“One consequence is that Nigerian refugees are fleeing back into their own country, into one of the most catastrophic areas as far as humanitarian needs are concerned that we are seeing at the moment,” he said. “So, it is moving, it is dynamic. It is very difficult, and the insecurity, as I said, it is making it a very tough job indeed, getting these people the help that they desperately need.”

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The UNHCR is scaling up its operations to provide lifesaving assistance to nearly 500,000 people. The World Food Program and U.N. children’s fund said they were trying to reach more than 700,000 people in desperate need.

The beneficiaries are concentrated in 10 newly liberated local government areas in Borno state, but the U.N. agencies said the thousands of refugees who have returned to Nigeria from the three Lake Chad Basin neighbors also urgently needed care. (VOA)

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Australian government to find humane solutions for refugees in Manus Island

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FILE - An undated image released Nov. 13, 2017, shows detainees staging a protest inside the compound at the Manus Island detention center in Papua New Guinea. (Refugee Action Coalition/Handout via Reuters)
FILE - An undated image released Nov. 13, 2017, shows detainees staging a protest inside the compound at the Manus Island detention center in Papua New Guinea. (Refugee Action Coalition/Handout via Reuters). VOA

The U.N. refugee agency is calling on the Australian government to find humane solutions for hundreds of refugees it has abandoned in a precarious situation on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island.

UNHCR accuses the Australian government of shirking its responsibilities to care for and protect some 800 refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island.

It says the situation has become more precarious for the refugees since the government closed its so-called offshore processing facility at the end of October. Over the past four weeks, it notes, refugees who were moved to three new accommodation sites have been attacked several times. The worst case involved three people armed with machetes and an axe.

UNHCR spokeswoman, Cecile Pouilly, says local hostility and resentment against the refugees is high and growing. She told VOA the Australian authorities must resolve this critical situation.

“We are talking here about people who have suffered extreme trauma and now are feeling so insecure in these places where they are staying. There are many victims of torture. People who have been deeply traumatized have been detained, having no idea what is going to happen next to them. I think this mental issue, this psychological issue is a major one,” Pouilly said.

A recent medical report commissioned by UNHCR finds the cumulative effect of uncertainty about their future is causing a deterioration in the mental and physical health of the refugees.

It warns cessation of services, substandard living and hygiene conditions and inadequate medical care are increasing violence and self-harm among the refugees. (VOA)