The large influx of more than 36,000 refugees from South Cameroon into Nigeria ollowing crisis in their country is raising serious humanitarian and health challenges as more than 4000 of them are in Boki local government area where our reporter visited last week.
UN record has shown that no fewer than 36,000 Cameroonian refugees are seeking asylum in the country and some of this number are in the central and northern senatorial district of the State.
Pillar understood that food and health crisis is already threatening the refugees and their host communities in Boki and Ikom. Besides, some natives, in a chat, expressed fears that if urgent steps are not taken, there could high casualty as most of the communities have no portable water or even health post.
At Bashu Okpambe/Bokim, Bashu Kaku, Abo Bonabe, Obisu , Danare and Okwangwo communities , the Pillar observed that the refugees, mostly women and children, looked haggard, malnourished and frustrated.
Speaking of their ordeals, one of the refugees, who said he is a native of Kajivo village in Southwest region of Cameroon, Ojong Steven said, “I am here with my family of eleven because of the war that happened in Cameroon. The Bashu people are trying their best but the problem is that, we the Cameroonians are more than the people in the village so we find it difficult to feed and get satisfied.
“At times when they bring food, we normally eat together with our host but the food does not go round. And secondly, I am having health issues with my heart and when I was in Cameroon, I use to go for checkup but now I can’t do that anymore, thirdly, my children who are here are supposed to go to school, meaning it has affected their education. Two of them were in the University but now they are all here with me, I don’t know what to do.”
On her part, Mrs. Bamate, said, “I have five daughters and they have all stopped going to school. Since I was born, I have never experienced such a thing before. They forced us out of our village and since then we have been staying here. We hardly have food to eat. We sleep on the bare floor coupled with the harsh weather.”
In tears, Magdalene Kekong, flanked by her husband and six children said, “my 18years old son is epileptic and needs medical attention.
“When we were still in our country, I used to take him to the hospital where he received medical care but since we became refugees here, his situation has become worst because he stop taking treatment. The worst of it is that the people we are sharing apartment with have threatened to send us parking. I myself, husband and six children are all living together in a single room.”
The State Government on his part has promised to intervene as quickly as possible to prevent an outbreak of epidemic.
The Special Adviser on Aviation Matters, Mr Kajang Amos, who paid a visit to the refugees at the weekend, said “the number that I have come to see is more than what has been reported lately. Numbering more than 4, 000 people around here and what I have seen is a direct threat, ecological threat in terms of survival, housing, shelter, health and all related to the livelihood of the people. I have discovered that in most households, there are about twelve persons in one room and I foresee an outbreak of epidemic if measures are not taken.
“Few days ago, the Governor had a meeting with Air Marshal Sadique Abubarkar, Chief of Air Staff and he raised issue with him. The Governor did gave assurance that he was going to swing into action to ensure swift intervention, and we have assured the people that government will not sleep or rest until something is done.
“We have also seen that the road network is poor and no good source of drinking water. The health sector is also porous. I went to the health centre and saw only one bed with two health personnel to provide health services to about 4,000 people, excluding indigenes so it calls for a wakeup call.
“In terms of security, the place lack official personnel, borders are not yet developed and there are no police stations, customs, or immigrations, the only option left is the traditional security measures which we have told the refugees to abide by the existing laws of the land.”
The village head of Bashu Community, Chief Emmanuel Echam, said the problem they are facing was that the refugees are more populated than the communities harboring them.
While appealing to the state government to come to their aid, he said, the refugees population is more than my community. They don’t have place to sleep, they don’t have food to eat especially here in my community. We have to get some mat for them to sleep on, even with that, they are still having challenges. We appeal to government to assist this people.”
The Coordinator of Red Cross Society and a member of the National Disaster Respond Team (NDRT), in Cross River, Mr. Agbo Ogoba, in his remarks, said, “the total population of refugees in Bashu community alone is 3,685. We are also making plans to see how we can visit Okwangwo and other neighboring communities affected so we can actually have a proper data of them.
“It is very pathetic for refugees to be in a particular country couple with the fact that shelter are not well provided for. They can hardly afford one square meal a day so it is very pathetic and the essence of that assessment was to know their plight and then see what the society can do with the help of government.
“They also have health and hygiene issues but if the government can act fast, that can help and also reduce the burden of the indigenes of those communities.”
However, reports say the State government, through the Managing Director of Cross River Food Bank Commission, Mrs. Mercy Akpama has donated toiletries and food items to over 3000 refugees in Ikom.