More than a million Nigerians have fled fanatically violent attacks by the Islamic militant group Boko Haram. Spilling over into neighbouring countries, these displaced families have relied on Catholic Church and other aid groups for basic necessities like shelter, food and medicine. On 26 and 27 March, Caritas representatives from the region will meet in Rome to create a humanitarian action plan for displaced families, refugees, and those returning to their destroyed villages.
“The terror and suffering that the people of Nigeria have experienced is extreme,” said Caritas Nigeria Executive Director Father Evaristus Bassey, who will attend the Rome meeting. “We at Caritas, along with other people of goodwill, are doing our best to provide food, health care and sometimes shelter to the families who had to flee their homes. But the needs are staggering.’
In Nigeria and surrounding countries like Niger, Chad, and Cameroon, Caritas and Catholic dioceses are helping the displaced. More than 2500 people are staying at a camp at Saint Theresa Cathedral in Yola, Nigeria, with thousands more sheltering in church buildings around the country. Recently, Catholic bishops in Cameroon appealed to Nigeria’s bishops for help responding to the needs of tens of thousands of Nigerian refugees who fled to their country.
The Rome meeting will include Caritas representatives from Cameroon, Niger, and Chad. While Caritas has focused immediate needs like food and medicine, a coming challenge is reintegration in areas recaptured by Nigeria’s government. “With people going back to their homes, there are real issues about rebuilding and recovery,” says Fr Bassey. “So much has been destroyed–most people have no homes, nothing.”
The Rome meeting will also focus on the plight of families in the Central African Republic, where communal violence has flared up and driven more than 800,000 people from their homes. In both cases, Caritas and other aid groups are overwhelmed. The meeting will focus on ways Caritas members from the region, and around the world, can address the crisis.
“The attention of the world has not been turned to this problem,” said Fr Bassey. “Nigerians are rising to the occasion, but the needs are so many.”
About Caritas Internationalis
Caritas Internationalis is the official humanitarian and development organisation of the Catholic Church, dedicated to serving the poor and promoting charity and justice. Inspired by the Gospels and Catholic teaching, the 164 national members of Caritas Internationalis help the poorest, respond to disasters, provide social services, and speak out against the causes of poverty. www.caritas.org
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