June 25, 2014

CWS International Situation Report: Nigeria Displacement Crisis

SITUATION:

While the global community has been watching Nigeria following the April kidnapping of 223 girls by the Boko Haram extremists, that event has to be seen in the context of an even larger humanitarian problem.  Religious, ethnic and land-based conflicts have uprooted 3.3 million people in Nigeria, according to a recent report by the Norwegian Refugee Council. That makes the number of displaced in Nigeria the largest in Africa and the third largest (after Syria and Colombia) in the world.

The militarized conflict between Boko Haram and the Nigerian government has made the humanitarian situation particularly dire in the states of Bomo, Yobe and Adamawa, where more than 250,000 are displaced and where states of emergency have been imposed.

Unfortunately, churches have been targeted for violence.  At the same time, churches are providing humanitarian support for uprooted communities.

CWS, MEMBERS AND PARTNERS’ RESPONSE:

A number of CWS member communions and partner agencies that have churches and other ministry relationships in Nigeria are providing support and accompaniment to them and to their wider communities during this difficult time.

Among them:

- The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The ELCA’s partner in Nigeria is the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria, and two global personnel are working with the Nigeria-based Mashian Foundation. The ELCA is in contact with these partners and personnel.

- Christian Reformed World Missions and sister agency World Renew, formerly the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, have historic and ongoing ministry relationships in Nigeria. The three closest Nigerian partner denominations are all members of the TEKAN fellowship, to which EYN – the Nigerian Brethren Church -- also belongs.  Most of the member congregations of these three denominations are located in the "middle-belt" states of Benue, Plateau and Taraba. 

While the three Reformed denominations have not come close to suffering the level of EYN's losses, they have lost members, pastors and church buildings, according to reports. Many of the incidents in these middle-belt states have been attributed to "Fulani herdsmen" rather than to Boko Haram.  Whether there is a link between the Fulani actions and Boko Haram is debated. Christian Reformed groups have North American personnel in Abuja and Jos, and both cities have been hit by Boko Haram bombings over the last three years.

- The Church of the Brethren has deep connections in Nigeria.  The Nigerian Brethren Church comprises hundreds of thousands of members. The Church of the Brethren is aware of the many thousands of people who have been displaced from northern Nigeria. The Church of the Brethren in the United States has provided some small funds to the EYN Compassion Fund and would like to begin a much larger fundraising appeal and to encourage other communions to also join the effort. Current needs include food, housing and schooling support.

Possible responses by CWS and its member communions and partners may be to collaborate on support to those who have been internally displaced.  In addition, the CWS Immigration & Refugee Program may work with Nigerian refugees in Cameroon.  This could include CWS assistance to urban refugees in Cameroon to become economically self-reliant. 

An estimated 30,000 Nigerians have fled into neighboring Cameroon, with many living in camps and rural settlements.  Limited access to rural livelihood opportunities is driving working age refugees to Cameroon's capital, in search of income to support their families. 

The refugee arrivals from Nigeria are in addition to the more than 200,000 men, women and children from Central African Republic (CAR) who have sought protection in Cameroon, many fleeing in 2013 after renewed violence in the CAR.  According to UNHCR, malnutrition rates among refugees are alarming.  There is a high level of family separation and an increasing numbers of unaccompanied refugee children and single woman-headed households. There is also a noted infiltration of armed elements into the camps along with recruitment attempts.

Depending on the outcome of further discussions with the Church of the Brethren and others, CWS may issue an emergency appeal in support of response efforts such as the Church of the Brethren EYN Compassion Fund.  In addition, CWS is considering how it might play a role in bringing those concerned from the ecumenical family in the United States to some common advocacy efforts around the Nigeria situation.

HOW TO HELP:

Financial contributions to support CWS emergency response efforts may be made online or sent to your denomination or to Church World Service, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515.