At a glance
3.7 million people of concern as of end of June 2017
UNHCR is responding to the growing needs of Nigerian internally displaced people (IDPs) and refugees, who are facing enormous challenges and dire living conditions due to a lack of food, shelter, water and sanitation, as well as limited and overstretched health facilities. In view of this evolving situation, UNHCR is revising its supplementary requirements for the Nigeria situation. This revised supplementary appeal outlines UNHCR’s plan in the remaining months of 2017 to scale-up its response inside Nigeria to meet the needs of returnees, as a result of an unexpected surge in the selforganized return of Nigerian refugees from Cameroon. Nigerian refugees are mainly returning to IDP settlements in north-east Nigeria. UNHCR is also intensifying mass information campaigns in the camps in northern Cameroon to ensure that refugees have accurate and updated information on the prevailing situation in areas of return in Nigeria. The 2017 regional Refugee Response Plan (RRP) for the Nigeria situation remains the main coordination and planning tool to address the protection and life-saving needs of Nigerian refugees in Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
US$179.5 million is needed in financial requirements for the Nigeria situation for January until December 2017. That includes an increase of supplementary budget needs of $9.5 million due to additional unforeseen needs in Nigeria.
Regional displacement overview and trends analysis
The outbreak of the Boko Haram insurgency in 2009 has steadily become the single greatest cause of displacement in the Lake Chad Basin region, with more than 2.3 million people becoming refugees, internally displaced people (IDPs) or returnees as a result. In Nigeria, the number of IDPs has more than doubled in the span of three years, from some 868,000 people identified by the Nigerian Government in the north-eastern regions at the end of 2014 to 1.7 million people by June 2017, according the Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) report released by IOM.
The conflict has increasingly spilled into neighbouring countries, with increased infiltration, suicide-bombings, attacks and recruitment by the armed group, prompting population movements from northern Nigeria across borders to Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Growing insecurity in the region has led to an increase in the number of refugees by more than 20 per cent in two years, from 160,000 people registered in June 2015 to more than 207,000 in June 2017. New refugee arrivals are anticipated to continue in the second half of 2017. Normal economic activities in areas of Cameroon’s Far North, Niger’s Diffa and Chad’s Lake Chad regions have been severely disrupted.
The vast majority of IDPs and Nigerian refugees have expressed an intention to return to their areas of origin, while almost all continue to cite significant barriers to return, including insecurity and lack of access to their home areas as well as to food and shelter. Nevertheless, significant numbers of Nigerian refugees have returned from neighbouring countries of asylum, sometimes under circumstances deemed by UNHCR to fall short of international standards, including the adherence to the principle of non-refoulement. Since April 2017, significant numbers of refugees have also returned in self-organized movements, bringing the number of Nigerian returnees to close to 135,000 registered between January and June 2017. Current trends show that similar self-organized return movements will likely continue.
Crisis impact and regional needs overview
Difficult security and access conditions As the military continues to regain access to territory and secure civilian locations in Nigeria’s north-east, more areas are expected to become accessible to humanitarian organizations in 2017.
However, the security situation across the Lake Chad region remains precarious. New, targeted attacks by Boko Haram and counter-insurgency operations by the Nigerian army and the Multi-National Joint Task Force continue to severely impact the humanitarian situation and restrict humanitarian access. Reaching all people in need remains the biggest challenge. In May 2017, the UN estimated that 700,000 people are in inaccessible areas in north-east Nigeria, with humanitarian operations focusing on Maiduguri city and Local Government Area headquarters in newly accessible areas. Across the region, the operational reach and effectiveness of humanitarian actors continue to be severely impeded by ongoing conflict, which challenges UNHCR’s ability to maintain a meaningful presence in some locations, both in Nigeria and in countries of asylum.
Widespread protection concerns
Over the past eight years, the crisis has had profound, pronounced and long-standing impacts resulting from the extreme level of violence of the conflict and the widespread destruction of private and public infrastructure, devastating the Lake Chad region. The violence has spread fear and apprehension among the population in the region and exacerbated social divisions and distrust, especially toward those suspected of any association with the insurgency movement. These perceptions have influenced responses to forced displacement by countries in the region as part of efforts to address legitimate security concerns. In north-east Nigeria, many camps remain under the control of the military, which has led to some protection concerns and, in some cases, these camps are targeted by Boko Haram and infiltrated by militants.
As part of Nigeria’s 2017 Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO), the findings of the protection sector working group revealed a full spectrum of protection concerns in north-east Nigeria, with 6.7 million people estimated to be in need of protection and assistance in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States.
Civilians in these regions face grave human rights violations and abuse including death, injuries, sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), arbitrary detention, disappearances, forced displacement, and forced recruitment. Boko Haram has targeted areas with high concentrations of IDPs and refugees. The psychological needs of the displaced population are particularly significant and remain largely unmet given the magnitude of the problem. Loss and fear among the displaced are aggravated by a sense of loss of dignity as many feel ashamed of their living conditions.
Engaging in income-generating activities and recreational activities have emerged in UNHCR monitoring data as important sources of psychological relief at the individual, family and community levels.
Impact on women and children
The conflict particularly affects vulnerable groups such as women and children who constitute the majority of the displaced population in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger. UNHCR has witnessed an increasing number of unconventional households headed by women, children and older people.
Out of the 17,700 vulnerable households profiled by UNHCR’s vulnerability screening (November 2016), 18 per cent (6,800 households) have unaccompanied or separated children, including 14 per cent (5,400 households) with orphans, due to the conflict; 15 per cent (4,900 households) have children hawking or begging; and 3 per cent (1,100 households) of displaced households reported their child to be missing.
Sexual abuse and exploitation
SGBV is a significant protection concern among women and children, but the problem is suspected to be greatly under-reported. In Cameroon, monitoring data shows that girls displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency are increasingly likely to engage in early and forced marriages, while in Nigeria, women have been targeted by abductions, forced marriages, rape and use as suicide-bombers.
Inadequate humanitarian assistance in camps and newly accessible areas has also resulted in a high level of sexual abuse and exploitation. Many women are reportedly coerced into resorting to survival sex in order to obtain food for themselves and their children or to be able to move in and out of the camp.
Lack of documentation
The lack of national ID documents and, hence, difficulties in proving nationality is widespread in the areas of the Lake Chad Basin, affecting people’s access to safety, services and justice. In Nigeria,
UNHCR’s vulnerability screening (November 2016) in newly accessible areas in eight Local Government Areas showed that all 17,700 households profiled lacked legal documentation. This is a particular challenge in Niger’s Diffa region, where a UNHCR study revealed that over 80 per cent of displaced people interviewed were without documentation on which their legal status and rights of residence, movement, employment and property depend.
Poor living conditions
Displaced populations are living in squalid conditions characterized by overcrowding and limited access to safe, sanitary and dignified accommodation. IDPs and returnees in Nigeria hosted in camps and displacement sites are often living in congested shelters or isolated in insecure or inhospitable areas, making them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. The situation is most precarious in settlements such as camps, displacement sites, and unfinished buildings. The lack of shelter is, therefore, a major and persistent challenge and one of the main barriers to return.
Displaced people in the region also face precarious health conditions and have poor access to health services. The health problems they report are mostly related to the change in their living conditions. In Cameroon and Niger, refugees living in out-of-camp contexts reported difficulties in obtaining medicine outside the camps and sites due to limited supply, financial constraints, or because of restrictions on their movement.
In addition, access to food and drinking water, as well as meeting their basic needs, remain problematic for most displaced people, especially in semi-arid regions. Limitations in access, availability, and quality have made water the most significant source of conflict between the displaced and host communities in all four countries. In particular, the shortage of water is more pronounced in arid areas in Chad, northern Cameroon, and Niger. Numerous outbreaks of cholera and other water-borne diseases in displacement-affected areas across the region, particularly in Cameroon and Nigeria, have been linked to this problem. Severe malnutrition in Nigeria and asylum countries has become more prevalent as the quantity and quality of available food has dramatically decreased. Some 5.2 million people are facing acute food insecurity in north-east Nigeria, an increase of 50 per cent since March 2016, according to the food security sector’s Cadre Harmonisé—a regional initiative that assesses the food security across the Sahel—from March 2017. Affected households have had consecutive years of restricted income levels, destruction of assets and livelihoods, and reduced food access, leading to an increase in negative coping strategies. With insecurity in northern Nigeria disrupting traditional cross-border trade and herding, market prices in neighbouring countries have increased, further affecting livelihood opportunities.
Large-scale cross-border movements
Large refugee return movements, mainly across the border between Cameroon and Nigeria, are of particular concern as some refugees find themselves in IDP or IDP-like situations. The main areas of departure are Minawao and Kolofata refugee settlements in Cameroon. The anticipated improvement in access and conditions in areas of return have not eventuated. Instead, areas of return in northern Nigeria remain largely inaccessible to civilian populations for security reasons and those returning have ended up in secondary displacement, joining severely crowded IDP sites in the Bama and Gwoza Local Government Areas. While the decision to return are being taken by refugees themselves, people variously cite difficult conditions at Cameroon’s Minawao camp, including a reduction in the refugee food basket, or the need to return for the farming season. Refugees also organize their own transport.
The ongoing self-organized returns of refugees from Cameroon into secondary displacement, which was neither foreseen nor anticipated, has created a new emergency for UNHCR and other actors particularly in Banki—Bama Local Government Area—where the population of the IDP site has doubled from some 20,000 to more than 45,000 displaced people in a two-week period in May 2017.
The IDP site has no further capacity for expansion. Returnees and IDPs are living outdoors—a situation recently compounded by the onset of the rainy season. Where there are shelters, these are mainly communal. Food supplies are inadequate while cooking fuel remains a daily challenge.
There is no free movement in and out of the IDP site. Reception conditions are currently below minimum standards, where new arrivals are hosted for over 48 hours before relocation to security cleared areas or their areas of origin. Reception conditions need to be urgently improved to include registration and WASH facilities. In areas such as Pulka, a principal area of return for many of those coming back, the destruction of basic infrastructure has rendered return to this area unviable. Health risks prevail due to the near-total absence of water and sanitation services in Pulka. Overall, there are heightened protection risks, particularly for women and girls in an environment that has numerous human rights violations.
This revised supplementary appeal summarizes UNHCR’s overall plan and resource requirements for 2017 in north-east Nigeria and neighbouring countries affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.
The additional requirements presented in this appeal will enable UNHCR to respond to growing humanitarian needs in Nigeria, establish presence in border locations and improve border monitoring, while also expanding reception facilities and implementing mass information campaigns to ensure that Nigerian refugees in Cameroon have accurate and updated information on the prevailing situation in areas of return in Nigeria.