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Nigeria: Red Cross aids refugees fleeing from Chad

14-02-2008 News Release 08/28

Abuja (ICRC) – On 4 February, when a first group of 84 Nigerian returnees and around 1,000 refugees arrived in the town of Ngala, in the north-eastern state of Borno near Nigeria’s border with Cameroon, it was the local branch of the Nigerian Red Cross Society that notified the authorities and was the first aid agency on the scene.

“Thanks to the Red Cross, we were alerted to the arrival of the refugees, and were able to organize help,” said a state official.

A total of 75 Red Cross volunteers were on hand to provide emergency assistance and health care and to build sanitation facilities. They also coordinated aid delivery, cooked food and distributed essential household items.

Most of the refugees arrived from the Cameroonian border town of Kusseri, where another 10,000 refugees were reportedly gathered. A majority were originally from Niger but were said to have been in the Chadian capital N’Djamena when fighting erupted. Most of the Nigerian returnees managed to rejoin their families within Nigeria.

The state of Borno has housed the refugees in an abandoned building on the outskirts of Ngala and is setting up a camp around the building in anticipation of any future influx. The Nigerian Red Cross and the Nigerian immigration service are registering the refugees, some of whom have mobile phones with which they have been able to stay in touch with their loved ones.

By 10 February most of the refugees had returned to Chad and many aid workers had withdrawn. The Red Cross and local government agencies remained on the scene, however.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was active in Nigeria during the country’s civil war (1966-1970). It established a regional delegation in Lagos in 1988 and relocated to Abuja in 2003. The ICRC works to enhance the Nigerian Red Cross Society’s capacity to respond to emergencies countrywide. It supports the National Society’s tracing and dissemination activities and a programme to improve hygiene and sanitation in prisons. Working with the authorities, the armed forces, the police and civil society, the ICRC promotes awareness of international humanitarian law and its national implementation.

For further information, please contact:
  Anahita Kar, ICRC Abuja, tel +234 9 4619 613 or +234 703 595 4168