At least 10,000 people, mostly women and children, have fled into Chad from northern Cameroon this week after deadly clashes between herding and fishing communities, the UN said Sunday.
Twelve people were killed and dozens wounded in the violence, which erupted Tuesday in the Far North region, a tongue of land wedged between Nigeria to the west and Chad to the east.
“The pressing needs are for health services, shelter and food,” said Iris Blom, the United Nations refugee agency’s deputy director in Chad.
She said 85 percent of the refugees who fled to Oundouma, south of the Chadian capital N’Djamena, were women and children.
The fighting in Cameroon began when Muslims built dams to divert water to help them catch fish, in a location where ethnic Arab Choa herders also take their cattle for watering, according to regional governor Midjiyawa Bakari.
Clashes between ethnic groups are rare in Cameroon but frequent in Chad and Nigeria, particularly between sedentary farmers and semi-nomadic herders.
In Chad, the local governor said authorities were moving to ensure the conflict does not spill across the border from Cameroon.
Chari-Baguirmi Governor Gayang Souare said some of the refugees were placed with families, while others were lodged in schools and churches.
Cameroon’s Far North is also struggling with cross-border attacks by jihadists from northeastern Nigeria.