GOURA, CAMEROON/NEW YORK, FEBRUARY 14, 2019—More than 35,000 Nigerians have crossed into Cameroon in recent weeks following an upsurge in violence around the northeast Nigerian town of Rann. Having arrived in the village of Goura in Cameroon's far northwest, they are in urgent need of food, shelter, and water, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today, after launching an emergency response.
"They left on foot very early in the morning—women, children, and elderly people," said Dr. Silas Adamou Moussa, MSF deputy program manager for emergencies. "When they fled, they had to leave elderly and sick relatives behind. They brought along what possessions they could, but in Goura they have nothing to drink and nowhere to sleep. They have been left to fend for themselves."
The refugees have been staying in a large, informal camp in Goura since late January. Most are sleeping in the open, in a season of sandstorms and cooler nights.
These refugees face uncertainty over whether they will be resettled or returned to Nigeria, which also complicates humanitarian assistance.
"This is not the first time that people from Rann have had to flee to Cameroon," Dr. Moussa said. "The first time, some of them returned home after having fled, but not this time. They don't want to go back to Rann unless they know they can live safely, yet their future here is also uncertain. They are afraid. Their children are afraid."
MSF has set up a clinic in the camp, carrying out more than 400 medical consultations over the past two weeks. Thirty-five percent were for infectious respiratory diseases, followed by diarrhea and conjunctivitis, all of which are related to the refugees' poor living conditions.
Access to safe drinking water has been a major problem in the camp. MSF and other aid providers have been working to increase the provision of drinking water to 240,000 liters per day in the camp. Yet at seven liters per person per day, this remains less than half the international minimum standard in emergencies, which is 15 liters per person per day.