GENEVA: A Boko Haram attack this week on the northern Nigerian town of Damassak has left 50 people dead and forced at least 3,000 to flee to neighboring Niger, the United Nations (UN) refugee agency said on Friday.
Dammasak, which lies just a few kilometers from the Niger border, was reportedly captured by radical group Boko Haram on Nov. 24 and people are still arriving in Niger from Nigeria as a result of the attack, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
After an attack on the Nigerian village of Malan Fatori on Oct. 5, which prompted the flight of more than 1,000 people to Niger, Damassak is the second large attack occurring only a few kilometers away from the Nigerian-Niger border in less than two months.
The UN agency noted the increasing presence of the insurgents in close proximity to the border with Niger could lead to new displacements in the near future.
The regular influxes of Nigerian refugees and returning Niger nationals are placing a heavy burden on Diffa, a remote and economically underdeveloped region.
“Refugees said they had no time to collect any of their belongings and had to leave everything behind. With its partners and the local community, UNHCR has been providing plastic sheeting and blankets to help people put up temporary shelters and (as protection) against the night-time cold,” UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards told a press conference.
According to local authorities, more than 100,000 people have fled to Niger since May 2013, when the Nigerian government declared a state of emergency in three northeastern states following attacks from Boko Haram, Edwards noted, adding more than 30,000 people have found refuge in the area in the past two months.
He said while local inhabitants have shared their resources with the Nigerian refugees, UNHCR fear that the already fragile economic structure could collapse under the strain.
Violence in Nigeria has also pushed more than 39,000 Nigerians to flee to Cameroon since then as well as 2,800 to Chad. In Nigeria, some 700,000 people are internally displaced in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, according to government figures. PNA