UN Seeking 500 Billion to Help Central African Republic Refugees in Nigeria

FILE - A family with its belongings on a makeshift cart is seen in Bangui, Central African Republic, Sept. 30, 2015. Many residents are fleeing sectarian clashes between rivaling Christian and Muslim militias.
A family with its belongings on a makeshift cart is seen in Bangui, Central African Republic, Sept. 30, 2015. Many residents are fleeing sectarian clashes between rivaling Christian and Muslim militias. Associated Press

By Lisa Schlein

The United Nations refugee agency and its partners are appealing for more than half a billion dollars to provide life-saving aid to hundreds of thousands of people fleeing conflicts in Nigeria and the Central African Republic. The funding would also assist the communities hosting the refugees.

While all eyes are trained on Syria’s refugee crisis, the world has seemingly forgotten the conflicts playing out in Nigeria and Central African Republic — two of Africa’s biggest humanitarian crises.

The United Nations reports nearly a quarter-million Nigerians have fled to neighboring countries to escape the brutal and murderous attacks of Boko Haram militants. And, it says ongoing instability and violence in the CAR has forced almost a half-million people to flee across borders.

The new U.N. appeal aims to help these refugees as well as the communities sheltering them in Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo and Republic of Congo.

Refugee agency spokesman Adrian Edwards said the appeal will provide protection for the refugees as well as basic life-saving needs. These include food, health care, nutrition, shelter, water, hygiene and sanitation.

“Also looking at issues that normally do not get much public attention, such as education and livelihoods,” he said. “When you have refugees displaced into neighboring countries, children lose their education. Families cannot make a decent living sometimes. They have difficulties with livelihoods. And, these elements are really, really important that you address them.”

Edwards said these two humanitarian crises must not be forgotten, as the victims of the conflicts are still suffering. Unfortunately, he said, Nigeria and CAR have been out of the international headlines for a long time.

He said the international community is fooling itself if it believes these conflicts can be dismissed as localized problems.

“These are regional problems because they are generating refugees into surrounding countries,” he said. “Countries like Cameroon, for example, are seeing both Nigerian refugees and Central African Republic refugees on the one hand. And, this arc of crises and problems extends further down toward South Sudan itself. Down toward DRC and other areas.”

Edwards said these crises require comprehensive approaches if they are going to be properly resolved.

Lisa Schlein is a contributor to VOA.