Nigerian refugee camp blaze kills two, leaves thousands homeless


A large blaze which swept through a camp in Maiduguri, in eastern Nigeria’s Borno State, left two people dead while hundreds of families were left homeless.

The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, and its humanitarian partners are stepping up to assist nearly 4,000 people who were displaced by the blaze.

UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo said the fire broke out on the eve of Muslim festival of Eid-al-Fitr celebrating the end of Ramadan, at the makeshift camp now hosting some 40,000 internally displaced people.

Mantoo said the conflagration began after sparks from a cooking fireplace spread out and ignited a fire which soon engulfed shelters all around the camp.

The UNHCR spokesperson said that houses were razed to the ground and damaged other facilities.

Mantoo, speaking at a press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva said the majority of those affected people were women.

UNHCR said nearly 300,000 displaced people are scattered in organized and makeshift sites in and around Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State.

The relief agency noted that in the past few months, several fire incidents have occurred in congested IDP camps across North East Nigeria where shelters are too close for safety.

UNHCR is working with the authorities, aid agencies and local partners to make sure those affected receive shelter and other relief items as people are once again displaced inside and outside of the camp.

Many, including young children, are living under the open skies, needing immediate help with shelter, food and clothing, Mantoo said.

A total of some 2.5 million people are displaced across the Lake Chad region, including some 1.8 million inside Nigeria and the rest in Cameroon and Chad.

With the ongoing violence by Boko Haram and other armed groups thousands more have to run for their lives each day. Young girls, old women and aid workers continue to bear the brunt of this escalating violence.

With violence on the rise, the threat of COVID19 brings in new threats for the internally displaced living in overcrowded camps and settlements where social distancing is impossible. In response, UNHCR is working with the UN Development Programme to expand several camps and build additional shelters. (Source: UNHCR)