125,000 Nigerian refugees in Niger worry WFP

125,000 Nigerian refugees in Niger worry WFP

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 6:26 pm

Women prepare food in a camp inside Cameroon. AFP photo

Women prepare food in a camp inside Cameroon. AFP photo

The UN food agency on Tuesday voiced concern for the 125,000 Nigerian refugees who have fled to southeast Niger, where Boko Haram militants have launched attacks in recent days.

“The World Food Programme is particularly concerned by the attacks in the north of Nigeria which are spreading to Niger, forcing thousands of people to flee,” WFP spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said.

Byrs stressed “the appalling situation” in which refugees live in the Diffa region, where the population has almost doubled and food stocks are becoming scarce.

Nigeria’s Islamist Boko Haram group has since Friday launched three large-scale attacks in the Diffa region, which borders the northeastern Nigerian state of Borno where the militants control large swathes of territory.

Following the attacks, “the World Food Programme temporarily interrupted food distribution in the area,” Byrs said. “Distribution will resume when the situation allows.”

She did not know whether the refugees had left the camps in the region.

The majority of the 125,000 refugees are sheltering in the Diffa region, which has three camps, but they are also dispersed in 140 sites and villages, according to WFP.

The WFP and its partners found in a study in November last year that 52.7 percent of displaced households and their host families needed food aid.

WFP said that by December last year it was providing food to more than 60,000 refugees, returnees and host families.

Niger’s parliament voted unanimously on Monday to send 750 troops to Nigeria to join a regional fight against Boko Haram.

On Saturday, Nigeria and its neighbours — Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Benin — agreed to muster 8,700 troops, police and civilians for a wider, African Union-backed force against Boko Haram.

The Boko Haram insurgency has been centred in northeastern Nigeria. The conflict has killed more than 13,000 people since 2009.

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