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IOM: Violence displaces 59,000 in Nigeria

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The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has reported that an upsurge in violence in north-east Nigeria has displaced 59,200 people in the past three months.

Nigeria’s Foreign ministry reported that the migration agency warned in Geneva that the displacement had continued amid “increased sophistication” of attackers.

IOM noted the armed extremists, notably the Boko Haram militants, had contributed to a decade-long humanitarian crisis in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, that had spilled over into the Lake Chad region.

“Since November, we’ve seen 59,200 displaced,” IOM Nigeria’s Chief of Mission Frantz Celestin, said, noting that in the last two years, “we have not seen that many people on the move”.

The last two months of 2018 were also marked by “an increased sophistication” of non-state armed groups, accompanied by “an increased number of attacks and success in taking towns,” Mr Celestin explained.

He said that civilians continued to bear the brunt of conflict marked by widespread violation of international humanitarian and human rights law.

Since the start of the crisis, more than 27,000 people have been killed in the three north-eastern states, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha), and thousands of women and girls have been abducted.

“Government efforts to drive back the non-State armed groups that operate in the north-east of the vast country have been hindered by the Harmattan dust cloud – an annual phenomenon that sweeps across West Africa from November to March,” Mr Celestin said..

He said humanitarian access was limited by the ongoing insecurity, hampering the ability of aid agencies to assess needs comprehensively.

Tens of thousands of civilians have fled into already overcrowded camps, mainly in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno, the IOM official added.

“One of our biggest issues in north-east Nigeria in addition to the security issues is the land – access to land,” Mr Celestin said:

“We have a number of camps that are overcrowded, in fact, if we were to take all of the camps together, we would have more than 249,000 people in camps that are completely congested, with Monguno (Borno) being the largest one of them.”

Mr Celestin regretted that mere rumours of imminent attack were enough to convince communities to flee, noting that people had sought refuge in neighbouring countries of the Lake Chad region.

“Some of them were returned; they crossed the border and they were turned back. And for the recent (displacement) one, I don’t have the specific numbers; I’ve heard 30,000, but I have not been able to prove it,” he said.

In 2018, 7.7 million people in Nigeria were in need of humanitarian assistance, and 1.7 million others were classified as “food insecure” between October and December, according to the UN humanitarian wing.

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