The World Food Program reports it is scaling up operations in Cameroon as the number of refugees from Boko Haram attacks increases. WFP says it plans to assist more than 96,000 people in Cameroon, including Nigerian refugees, internally displaced people and local host communities.
Boko Haram attacks on both sides of the Nigerian-Cameroonian border are on the rise, and so is insecurity in this increasingly unstable region. Nigerian refugees keep streaming across the border into northern Cameroon to escape the ferocity of ongoing attacks by this militant group.
At the same time, the group's cross-border attacks into Cameroon have thrown the area into turmoil. They are causing panic among the local population. Many people are fleeing their homes in search of safety farther inland.
World Food Program spokeswoman Elizabeth Byrs tells VOA all semblance of normal life is gone, and that Boko Haram attacks are having terrible consequences.
“We have seen whole villages destroyed, services closed, health centers closed. People cannot go out to cultivate their fields and markets are closed. That is why the situation is more and more worrying in this border area," said Byrs.
This is why the World Food Program is planning to increase the number of people it will feed. Byrs says the disruption of the planting season and markets are leading to widespread food shortages and hunger.
She says this is having a particularly adverse impact on women and children, many of whom are suffering from malnutrition.
“WFP has reinforced support to health centers in the affected areas to treat malnourished children between six months and five years old. WFP also focuses its assistance to pregnant and nursing women. So far, 365 refugee children and 100 pregnant and nursing women have received nutritional support," she said.
While WFP is planning to increase its assistance, the agency notes this will be difficult and dangerous as well. It says the security situation in the region makes it risky for humanitarian agencies to operate.
It says funding also is a problem. It estimates it will need $23 million to run its operation in Cameroon this year. Currently, it says WFP is facing a shortfall of 65 percent, or $15 million.