Attacks by Boko Haram in the crisis-hit northeast have forced nearly 650,000 people from their homes, the United Nations humanitarian office (OCHA) said Tuesday, an increase of nearly 200,000 since May.
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) on its part reported that about 1,000 people trying to escape the fighting had fled to an uninhabited island on Lake Chad across northeastern border. "The group, mainly women and children, is in urgent need of food, water, shelter and
medical care," the UNHCR said. They reached the remote island of Choua on Thursday after fleeing a Boko Haram attack in their hometown of Kolikolia,
according to the refugee agency.
Chad has pledged to send two helicopters to the island to help evacuate the Nigerian refugees to a nearby area where they can be temporarily settled with host
communities, the UNHCR added. The refugee agency said it was sending staff to the area to coordinate the relief effort. Thousands have fled over Nigeria's borders into Cameroon, Chad and Niger seeking refuge from Boko Haram's relentless violence, which has killed more than 2,000 civilians this year and left scores of villages destroyed.
Relief workers have avoided setting up refugee or internally displaced persons (IDP) camps, but some fear camps may soon become necessary, especially in
Nigeria, as the security forces struggle to contain the escalating Islamist violence. OCHA said 436,608 people have been displaced in the three states - Adamawa,
Borno and Yobe -- that were placed under emergency rule in May 2013.
The agency put the IDP figure at 250,000 in May this year. Another 210,085 have fled their homes in areas neighbouring the state of emergency zone, bringing the total number of people displaced by Boko Haram unrest to nearly 650,000, OCHA reported.