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UN Notes Unprecedented Influx of Refugees into Cameroon

Refugees arrive at the border town of Garoua Boulaye in east Cameroon, July 7, 2014. (Moki Edwin Kindzeka/VOA)
Refugees arrive at the border town of Garoua Boulaye in east Cameroon, July 7, 2014. (Moki Edwin Kindzeka/VOA)

The U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) said an unprecedented number of refugees from the Central African Republic (C.A.R.) and Nigeria are still flowing into Cameroon, fleeing violence by anti-Balaka and Boko Haram militias. Many of the refugees are wounded and traumatized.

UNHCR representative Ndeye Ndiougue Ndour told VOA many of the refugees are arriving with wounds from machetes or gunshots.

"These people are arriving [at a rate of] about 10,000 per week. They arrive with many wounded by machetes, traumatized. The response we can do is to save lives and saving lives is to move them very quickly from the border and take them to transit centers or the sites [refugee camps]," said Ndour.

Officials say many of the refugees spent months wading through the bush looking for a way across the border as anti-Balaka militias in the C.A.R have blocked the main roads.

The government of Cameroon is asking for international assistance to cope with what is now about 260,000 refugees - more than double the number from just six months ago when sectarian violence spiraled in the C.A.R.

Jean Pierre Nana, director of civil protection in Cameroon's Ministry of Territorial Administration, cited the many challenges the country is facing.

"We have security challenges, we have socio-economic challenges, [and] we also have humanitarian challenges and coordination of actions [activities] on the field," said Nana.

As fighting between mostly Christian anti-Balaka militias and mostly Muslim Seleka rebels continues unabated in C.A.R., relief officials say the number of entry points in eastern Cameroon has doubled from about 12 to 27 in the last month. UN officials say that is making it even more challenging to assist the refugees.

Most of the approximately 10,000 people a week seeking a safe haven in Cameroon are from the C.A.R, but as many as 30 percent of them are from Nigeria - where they are fleeing violent attacks by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.