The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that more than 85,000 Cameroonians have fled to neighboring Chad in recent days, while at least 15,000 Cameroonians have been forced to leave their homes inside their country. .
“Humanitarian access in the region being very limited, their actual number could be much higher,” said UNHCR spokesperson Matthew Saltmarsh at a regular UN press briefing in Geneva.
It appears that travel to Chad has accelerated rapidly, as the total is almost triple the figure reported last week, when 30,000 people crossed the border.
🗣️ Displacement from Cameroon to Chad has accelerated, with the total number of displaced people approaching triple the figures reported last week, when 30,000 people crossed the border in search of safety.
– The UNHCR (@Le_HCR) December 17, 2021
44 people killed and 111 injured
The vast majority of newcomers to Chad are children, and 98% of adults are women.
Some 48,000 people have found refuge in 18 urban sites in N’Djamena, the capital of Chad, and 37,000 people are dispersed in 10 rural sites along the Chadian side of the Logone River.
The number of victims of the fighting has also increased: 44 people have been killed and 111 injured, compared to 22 dead and 30 injured last week. A total of 112 villages were burnt down.
According to the UN Agency, security forces have been sent to the Far North of Cameroon and disarmament operations are underway there.
“Although few incidents have been reported over the past week, tensions remain high in the area,” Saltmarsh added.
In addition, UNHCR still cannot access the rural district of Logone Birni where the clashes started, due to insecurity.
“Our teams in the towns of Maroua and Kousseri are assessing the protection and humanitarian needs of internally displaced persons,” said the UNHCR spokesperson.
The scarcity of water resources is the source of a dispute
Clashes initially erupted on December 5 in the border village of Ouloumsa following a dispute between herders, fishermen and farmers over the depletion of water resources. The violence then spread to neighboring villages.
“The climate crisis is exacerbating competition for resources, especially water”, noted the UNHCR spokesperson, adding that “the surface of Lake Chad has decreased by 95% over the past 60 years”.
On the ground, UNHCR, along with authorities, other United Nations agencies and humanitarian partners, are deploying to provide life-saving assistance. The agency has declared a Level 2 emergency and is rapidly expanding its operations to help those affected in Cameroon and new refugees in Chad.
In addition, UNHCR teams are helping the Chadian government identify new accommodation sites further from the border to better protect refugees in accordance with international standards.
Difficulties in accessing safe drinking water and latrines
More broadly, the refugees urgently need shelter, blankets, mats and hygiene kits. Some are generously hosted by local communities, but most still sleep in the open air or under trees.
UNHCR and Médecins Sans Frontières have deployed mobile clinics in most of the refugee sites. Medical screening is underway and patients who need it are referred to national health structures.
For their part, many internally displaced people report difficulties in finding drinking water and do not have access to latrines.
In the face of this new humanitarian emergency, UNHCR appeals for the support of the international community to help the forcibly displaced people and reiterates its call for reconciliation to end the violence so that people can return home safely.
“We call for an immediate end to the violence and for the support of the international community to come to the aid of the victims and the refugees,” said Mr. Saltmarsh.
Chad is home to nearly one million refugees and internally displaced persons, and Cameroon more than 1.5 million refugees and internally displaced persons.