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In Cameroon, Hundreds Trapped, Lack Access to Assistance, UN Says

FILE - FILE - Nigerian refugees sit by a UNHCR tent in the refugee camp of Minawao, on the border of Nigeria at the extreme north of Cameroon.
FILE - FILE - Nigerian refugees sit by a UNHCR tent in the refugee camp of Minawao, on the border of Nigeria at the extreme north of Cameroon.

The U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, says poor roads and the threat of further Boko Haram attacks is preventing it from helping civilians in a camp for displaced people in northern Cameroon. The UNHCR says hundreds of displaced people and aid workers are trapped in the camp, which militants attacked over the weekend, killing 17. The U.N. is calling on Cameroon's military to help.

Olivier Guillaume Beer, UNHCR representative in Cameroon says he remains concerned by the situation in Nguetchewe, a village attacked by Boko Haram fighters last weekend. He says he was part of an emergency U.N. mission to assess the situation and evaluate the protection and health needs of those affected. He spoke on Wednesday in Yaoundé after visiting the northern village on the border with Nigeria.

"We found people who are in a situation of fear, fear of another attack and trauma," said Beer. "Traumatized because they are people who had already fled other attacks from the armed groups. We are advocating for the security to be reinforced. We could not provide assistance as we are doing on other sides because of the threat of violence, but also because the roads are poor, nonexistent, rendering movements very difficult."

Beer said some of the displaced people were insisting on leaving the Nguetchewe village camp and some had left. He quoted some of them as saying that it was not the first time they were attacked by Boko Haram on Cameroon's northern border with Nigeria. He said they need urgent psychosocial care and humanitarian assistance.

On Tuesday, Cameroon officials, escorted by the military, brought food and humanitarian aid from President Paul Biya.

The village and surrounding areas have suffered neglect because of Boko Haram terrorism. Schools, hospitals and some markets have been abandoned and access roads have become dilapidated.

Midjiyawa Bakary, governor of Cameroon’s Far North region says it is not easy to channel International humanitarian assistance to Nguetchewe and surrounding border villages.

Bakari says more troops have been deployed to protect civilians and humanitarian groups.

He says the fighters will have very difficult moments in the days ahead as more troops from the Multinational Joint Task Forces of the Lake Chad Basin have been deployed to secure the border. He says militias have been equipped with motorcycles and communications facilities to quickly inform the military of any suspected movement. He says the government is aware fighters have infiltrated villages.

The camp attacked by Boko Haram on Sunday night houses 800 displaced people. After the attack, the U.N. reported that more than 1,500 villagers and displaced people had escaped to the nearby town of Mozogo and surrounding bush for safety. The villagers said Boko Haram fighters had infiltrated communities.

Nurse Marie Giselle Ngueshi leads a group of seven humanitarian workers from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Cameroon. She says Boko Haram threats have stopped them from going to Nguetchewe to assist the sick and wounded. She spoke via a messaging app from the northern town of Mozogo.

She says the number of wounded people from the weekend's attack in Nguetchewe gives her an idea of Boko Haram cruelty. She says her group was ready to go and replace their colleagues in Nguetchewe, but were told by local militia groups that Boko Haram had infiltrated the area. She says the militias warned them against going to the village and said their peers cannot leave the village either.

The U.N. reports that Boko Haram violence in the Lake Chad Basin region has cost the lives of 30,000 people and displaced more than 3 million others.

The U.N. also says Boko Haram remains a threat and the decreasing humanitarian assistance from donor agencies makes it look like a forgotten emergency.