Violence in north-east Nigeria spreads suffering across borders

06 February 2015
Violence in north-east Nigeria spreads suffering across borders

As well as bringing suffering to people in Nigeria, violence in the north-east of the country is having an unprecedented impact in neighbouring countries.

"The deteriorating situation in north-east Nigeria is having serious humanitarian consequences throughout the region," said Karl Mattli, who heads the ICRC's delegation in Nigeria. "The violence is affecting vulnerable people, particularly women, children and the elderly. Hundreds of thousands of people have fled the violence and are currently living under difficult conditions in Maiduguri, Yola, elsewhere in Nigeria and in neighbouring countries. We are currently stepping up our operations in order to help people who are in desperate need."

An unprecedented number of people have fled from Nigeria to Niger, Chad and Cameroon. Nigerians have fled to Niger before, but the current batch of refugees seems determined to stay longer. Many had to leave everything behind when they fled, and have no way of earning a living. Obtaining food and other essential items is difficult. Some have found shelter with relatives or host families, while others have settled in camps. The pressure on host communities and local resources is an additional strain on areas already reeling from the drastic slowdown in trade with Nigeria and from a very poor farming and herding season.

Families have become separated, with children and parents losing contact. The ICRC and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies of the region are doing their best to reunite these families. In Chad alone, separated family members were able to make over 1,000 phone calls in order to re-establish contact.

Stepping up the response

With the number of displaced at almost a million according to Nigeria's National Emergency Management Agency and the security situation worsening, the ICRC is stepping up its humanitarian response within Nigeria's borders and beyond.

"Given the scale of the situation, we have to respond to needs at a regional level," said Yasmine Praz Dessimoz, ICRC head of region for North and West Africa.

The ICRC is delivering aid in Maiduguri, Yola, Kano, Gombe and other locations. At the same time, the organization is working with the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to provide relief across the region. In Niger, Chad and Cameroon, the most urgent needs are for food, water, shelter, health care and family contact.

Watch an interview with Beat Mosimann, the ICRC's deputy head of delegation in Abuja, on the situation in north-east Nigeria.