Africa: IOM Highlights Need for Regional Response to Boko Haram Displacement
A steady increase in the number of people internally displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria and fleeing to neighboring countries in the Lake Chad region calls for an expanded humanitarian response, according to a recently concluded IOM assessment mission.
About one million people have been internally displaced in Nigeria’s North East, with over 200,000 reported displaced in neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
To better understand the regional impact of the crisis, IOM conducted a 15-day assessment mission in the four affected countries in the Lake Chad region between January 23rd and February 6th 2015 to evaluate urgent needs and gaps.
The mission’s findings highlighted the need for additional humanitarian response capacity in Nigeria’s North East, which hosts by far the largest number of displaced people.
The situation is also becoming increasingly worrying in neighboring Niger, Cameroon and Chad. The Diffa and Zinder regions of Niger, Lake Chad and Kebbi areas of Chad, and the Extreme North region of Cameroon have all seen an influx of refugees, returnees, and stranded migrants.
Recent cross-border attacks and the fear of further Boko Haram encroachment are also causing internal displacement in the three neighboring countries.
Mixed caseloads that are difficult to differentiate in the absence of identity documents, a highly volatile and insecure operating environment and the sparse presence of humanitarian actors in some of the worst affected areas are just some of the elements shaping this complex displacement crisis.
“Access is a major issue hindering the humanitarian response, with the security situation deteriorating rapidly,” said Laura Lungarotti, an IOM protection officer based in Geneva. “For example, in Cameroon’s Extreme North, particularly in Logon-et-Chari, reaching the displaced population poses a huge challenge.”
With no end to the fighting in sight, the number of displaced people in the region is expected to increase further. A clear understanding of displacement patterns and numbers will be crucial in a targeted humanitarian response. The mission’s findings confirmed that displacement is concentrated mainly outside camps, putting a huge strain on host communities.
“Internally displaced people (IDPs) and the friends and families hosting them are reaching the limit of their ability to cope with the situation,” said Giovanni Cassani, an IOM Regional Emergency Specialist, on behalf of the assessment team. “These are often poor and disenfranchised communities where basic services and infrastructure are very limited. Many now lack adequate shelter, household items and access to income generating activities.”
These findings call for an increased humanitarian presence in Nigeria’s North East and its affected neighbouring countries. The humanitarian response needs to target displacement holistically and cater for the large numbers displaced in host communities.
IOM already is responding to the crisis by working with national authorities and partners in the affected countries. A key pillar of the response is IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) programme, which was rolled out in Nigeria at the end of 2014 in response to a lack of reliable information on the numbers, locations and needs of the displaced populations in the country’s North East.
“There was a growing need to strengthen the information on displacement patterns at national and regional level and conduct specific needs analysis in order to plan and prioritize urgently needed assistance,” noted IOM Nigeria Chief of Mission Enira Krdzalic. “The DTM project is an essential step toward providing effective assistance to the communities affected by the Boko Haram insurgency and leveraging adequate humanitarian resources.”
The programme is implemented in close coordination with national authorities to reinforce local capacities. DTM data collected so far in five of Nigeria’s most affected states indicates that the great majority (92.4 per cent) of IDPs are seeking refuge in host communities. Such information is critical in planning a humanitarian response that addresses the needs of all affected populations in a timely and efficient manner.
IOM Nigeria has also deployed mobile teams to provide psychosocial support in Borno state to families of the Chibok school girls abducted by Boko Haram last year and other affected communities.
IOM missions in Niger, Chad and Cameroon are now seeking to scale up their response in areas including information management, displacement tracking, dire