UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is deeply concerned about the new inter-communal clashes that erupted last week in Cameroon's Far North region, displacing thousands of people inside the country and forcing more than 30,000 people to flee to neighbouring Chad.
Since Sunday, December 5, at least 22 people have been killed and 30 others seriously injured during several days of intense violence in the Far North.
Clashes broke out in the border village of Ouloumsa following a dispute between herders, fishermen and farmers over the scarcity of water resources. The violence then spread to nearby villages. In total, ten villages were burned to the ground.
Assessment of the clashes
On 8 December, fighting broke out in the Cameroonian town of Kousseri, a commercial hub of some 200,000 people. The Kousseri cattle market was destroyed during the clashes. At least 10,000 people have fled Kousseri to N'djamena, Chad's capital. This city is located a few kilometers across the Chari and Logone rivers, borders with Cameroon.
Eighty per cent of the new arrivals are women – many of whom are pregnant – and children. They found refuge in N'Djamena and in villages along the Chadian bank of the Logone River.
Chad reaffirmed its commitment to welcoming the new arrivals. The Chadian authorities, as well as UNHCR, other UN agencies and various humanitarian partners, are rushing to provide Cameroonian refugees with shelter and emergency assistance. Injured people were admitted to two hospitals in N'Djamena.
Security forces have been sent to Cameroon's Far North, but the situation remains volatile. UNHCR was forced to suspend its operations in the affected areas.
Climate change at issue in the Far North
The climate crisis is exacerbating tensions in Cameroon's Far North. In recent decades, the surface of Lake Chad — of which the Logone River is the main tributary — has shrunk by 95 per cent. Fishermen and farmers dug vast trenches to hold the remaining water from the river so they could fish and farm. But these muddy trenches trap and sometimes kill herders' livestock, causing tension and clashes.
A first outbreak of intercommunal violence took place in August. Already at that time, 45 people had been killed and 23,000 forcibly displaced, 8,500 of whom have remained in Chad ever since.
UNHCR and the authorities have been leading reconciliation efforts in Kousseri since last week, during which community representatives pledged to end the violence. But without urgent action to address the root causes of the crisis, the situation could worsen.
UNHCR is calling for an immediate end to the violence and support from the international community to help victims and refugees.
Chad is home to nearly one million refugees and internally displaced persons, and Cameroon is home to more than 1.5 million refugees and internally displaced persons.
The financial resources needed to meet the needs in these two countries remain extremely low. UNHCR's needs for 2021 in Cameroon ($99.6 million) and Chad ($141 million) are only 52% and 54% funded respectively. Additional support is urgently needed to enable UNHCR to continue to provide life-saving assistance in this likely protracted crisis.
Distributed by APO Group for United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).