Women and children fleeing Cameroon

PARIS, France – As Cameroon’s separatist crisis continues, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR on Friday said it is increasingly concerned about the situation in the West African nation, especially the plight of women and children fleeing the English-speaking areas of the country into Nigeria.

UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler at a UN briefing said:  “Women and children represent about 80 percent of the approximately 10,000 refugees registered so far in eastern Nigeria’s Cross River state.”

According to the UNHCR, thousands additional people are among the population of unregistered Cameroonians in neighboring Nigerian states, and children, he said, make up about 50 percent of those fleeing the country.

Eyewitnesses say a good number of those fleeing are unaccompanied minors (boys and girls) who fled to Nigeria alone without any adult supervision.

“Unaccompanied and separated children are particularly affected by difficult access to food and the lack of subsistence opportunities. UNHCR staff have received numerous reports that children have to work or beg to survive or to help their families,” said Spindler.

UNHCR said it is liaising with Nigerian authorities to promote the reunification of separated children with their families and to offer unaccompanied children protection and a basic right to education.

Since the crisis began, several children are unable to attend school due to the lack both the time and funds for education in the conflict area as well as in the country of asylum.

Although schooling in Nigeria is free, the source added, there are basic associated costs, such as school materials etc..

“For women, the lack of work combined with the over-stretched reception facilities, creates a higher risk of sexual and gender-based violence,” said Spindler.