Abuja - Liz Ahua, Regional Representative for West Africa to the UN High Commission for Refugee (UNHCR), has reiterated the commission’s commitment to upscale humanitarian assistance to displaced persons and refugees in the region.
She made the pledge on Thursday in Abuja while briefing newsmen as she rounded up her visit to Nigeria.
The visit is aimed at assessing the humanitarian situation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), and Nigerian refugees.
According to Ahua, the visit and interaction with IDPs, returning Nigerian refugees, and relevant government agencies, have given her the opportunity to identify clearly the urgent needs of the IDPs and returning refugees.
She said this would enable UNHCR at the regional level take into consideration the urgent measures to upscale humanitarian assistance to the distressed population, especially in psychological assistance.
"In the context of this visit, I have had meetings with the National Emergency Management Agency, the National Commission for Refugee, Migration, and Internally Displaced Persons, UN country teams and a host of other stakeholders.
"The purpose was to hear from them what they think UNHCR is doing to alleviate, mitigate, and support the population that is in need of this country.
"Most importantly to meet with the IDPs themselves and hear directly from them what are the kinds of challenges they are living in.
"Meeting with these IDPs has given me a clear indication as to what their needs are and meeting with the authorities, the greatest needs they signified to was that of trauma.
"Close to 5.4 million people have been traumatised indirectly, but of course, there are those that have been traumatised directly because of different forms of abuse on them.
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"I can say that all of us, including the UN agencies that are working in this country, NGOs with whom we work with and all the relevant authorities are working hard to support these IDPS."
She said that UNHCR was gearing up to reorient its programme towards finding more adequate trained counselors and push them into the community to begin talking with traumatised people.
Ahua disclosed that inadequate security and inaccessibility to some volatile communities under regular insurgency attacks was a major challenge that hindered her team from reaching out to some of the IDPs.
Appreciating donor agencies who have contributed immensely to the commission’s humanitarian efforts, she appealed for more funding from donors to enable both the UNHCR and relevant authorities provide more and adequate humanitarian support.
She commended the Nigerian government for responding adequately to the needs of the over 1.4 million displaced population by providing them with relief items and monetary assistance.
Also speaking, Agele Dikongue-Atangana, the UNHCR Representative to Nigeria, said that in addition to the mandate of protecting and assisting refugees, the commission had done a lot for the IDPs in the country.
She said that aside humanitarian support and assistance, UNHCR was ready to assist the Nigerian government in ensuring the safe return and resettlement of the IDPs and returning refugees to their homes.
"UNHCR is also gearing up its preparedness to assist the government of Nigeria and other stakeholders to handle the return of these persons because they may not remain eternally in displacement.
"Of course, there are challenges, there are issues that need to be solved along the way but we are definitely prepared for that.
"There is a position document that we have come up with and we will in the next days come up with an operational strategy of such conceptual documents to assist with the returns.
"We do hope that this would help us go little by little towards the end of the dire humanitarian situation that has been unfolding since the insurgency began in the North East."
Dikongue-Atangana further urged Nigerians to continue supporting the IDPs in the country and the refugees outside the country.