By Ebi Kesiena
Clashes between herders, fishermen and farmers in the far north of Cameroon have driven at least 100,000 people from their homes in the past two weeks, creating a humanitarian emergency.
According to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) on Friday, an estimated 85,000 people had fled into neighbouring Chad in recent days, while at least 15,000 people had been forced to seek shelter within Cameroon.
“Indications are that displacement into Chad has accelerated,” UNHCR spokesperson Matthew Saltmarsh told reporters, adding that the agency and humanitarian partners were rushing to deliver life-saving assistance.
44 people have been killed in the fighting and 111 injured, Saltmarsh said. Chad is home to nearly a million refugees and internally displaced people.
The vast majority of new arrivals into Chad were children, and 98% of the adults were women, Saltmarsh said, adding that refugees “are in dire need of shelter, blankets, mats and hygienic kits”.
The clashes broke out in early December after disputes between herders, fishermen and farmers over dwindling water resources, the agency said, adding that climate change is exacerbating a competition for resources, especially water.
“The surface of Lake Chad has decreased by as much as 95% in the past 60 years,” Saltmarsh said. “We’re calling for support from the international community to assist the forcibly displaced.”