In the past five years, Boko Haram has forced over 1.6 million people to flee Nigeria — and, increasingly, border areas of Cameroon — due to numerous attacks intended to expand their “caliphate.” The Muslim group recently attacked Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State and the largest city in the northeast.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) released these stats about the recent exodus of Nigerians:
Nearly one million people have fled their homes in Nigeria because of the violence rocking the northern parts of the country, while more than 135,000 have sought refuge in Cameroun, Chad and Niger.
The recent attacks on Baga have led to a fresh wave of refugees into neighbouring countries, leading to a larger humanitarian crisis in the region – the vast majority are women and children.
In Chad, about than 9,000 Nigerian refugees and Chadian returnees have arrived to Chad since the beginning of the month, bringing the total number of Nigerian refugees there to over 10,000. More than 100 children have arrived without a parent or a caretaker.
In Cameroun, children represent 60 per cent of the 25,000 Nigerian refugees living in Minawao camp, in the northern region, where a recent assessment revealed alarming rate of malnutrition among children.
Niger has seen a sharp increase in the number of people seeking refuge in the Diffa region, where women and children make up 70 per cent of the 100,000 Nigerian refugees and returnees.
After years of operating exclusively in Nigeria, Boko Haram has begun to target neighboring Cameroon. On January 20, over 10,000 Cameroonians fled inland away from the vulnerable border towns. Boko Haram attacked “at least two dozen villages and towns” in January. Attacks caused ten schools in the area to close. A total of 140 schools in the country are closed.
For most of its history, Boko Haram has attacked only vulnerable small villages, but on January 25, the group attacked Maiduguri as Secretary of State John Kerry is in Lagos to meet with President Goodluck Jonathan. Over 200 fighters died in the attack. Militants also violated small villages around the capital. Survivors claim the terrorists attacked towns 125 miles south of Maiduguri, “slitting throats of residents, looting and burning homes and abducting dozens of trapped women and children.” The militants captured Monguno, 80 miles north of Maiduguri.
“Monguno has fallen, Monguno has fallen,” a senior military official told the media. “We fought them all night long but they took over the town, including the military barracks there.”