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More Money Needed to Help Thousands Displaced by Boko Haram

FILE - People board a commercial bus to flee following attacks by Boko haram in Bama and other parts of Maiduguri, Nigeria, Sept. 8, 2014.

The U.N. refugee agency is urgently appealing for $34 million to help tens of thousands of people forced to flee their homes in the face of increasingly violent attacks by Boko Haram in northeast Nigeria.

While 75,000 people have fled into Cameroon, Chad and Niger to escape vicious onslaughts by Boko Haram, the UNHCR says it expects that number to increase to at least 95,000 by the end of the year.

UNHCR spokesman, Babar Baloch, said there is not enough shelter to accommodate the influx of refugees into Cameroon. He said those newly arrived are occupying school buildings and churches. Some are staying with host families and others are living in the open and sleeping rough.

“Over the past weekend, newly arrived refugees told our teams at the border area that insurgents had attacked their villages in the areas of Gwoza, Bama, Pulka and Idagala in Borno State, and stole everything before burning their houses," said Baloch. "Some refugees are seriously traumatized having seen their relatives being brutally killed.”

He said the refugees escaped their homes at night and walked for days before reaching Cameroon. He said the children are exhausted with many suffering from respiratory infections. He said the villages are mostly empty on the Nigeria side, with only old and disabled people remaining.

The UNHCR spokesman said insurgent groups have been known to chase fleeing refugees into Cameroon. He said cross border attacks appear to have subsided.

“But, one of UNHCR’s main concerns is to relocate all the arriving refugees from the border areas to the camps and further inland ... But, people who arrive are quite desperate and traumatized because, as I was mentioning, some of them have seen their relatives being killed," said Baloch. "We have heard some gruesome details in terms of how these people have been murdered.”

Nigerian authorities are asking the agency’s support to better protect nearly 650,000 people internally displaced in the six northeastern States. The UNHCR is appealing for an additional $5.5 million to set up a protection monitoring system, to provide shelter and domestic items to displaced people with special needs.