An estimated 20,000 refugees have fled Boko Haram after two weeks of frequent attacks including a days-long massacre in Baga. Nigeria’s fragile neighbors, who have failed to quell the increasingly international Boko insurgency, now have a refugee crisis on their hands. Reuters reports:
“We are preparing for things getting much worse, not better,” said Karl Steinacker, UNHCR country representative in Niger, where around 150,000 people have taken shelter since the insurgency in Nigeria began five years ago.Steinacker told the Thomson Reuters Foundation a lack of jobs, high food prices and the sudden increase in population in Niger’s eastern Diffa area, the part most affected by the refugee influx, were putting pressure on scarce resources.“In Diffa, people can no longer cross into Nigeria for work as it’s too dangerous. But farmers in Niger are exporting to Nigeria where prices are higher due to the violence, so locals can’t afford to eat,” Steinacker said by telephone from Niamey.
West Africa’s refugee spillover mirrors events in Syria, where the country’s 3.2 million refugees threaten the political stability of Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. While fewer civilians have fled Boko Haram, drought conditions mean that the country’s neighbors have much more trouble feeding their own populations, let alone the waves of dispossessed who walk, ride, or swim from Nigeria daily.Even as Nigeria’s neighbors struggle to maintain their national borders, Boko Haram has moved freely across state lines. Recent attacks in Cameroon took advantage of the country’s inability to pursue its attackers across the border without Nigeria’s consent. Boko Haram’s depredations are likely to intensify in the weeks to come in an attempt to impede Nigeria’s national elections on February 14.