Although the abduction of some 200 schoolgirls by the extremist militant group Boko Haram drew the world's attention to Nigeria, much of the mayhem caused by the group's bloody insurgency has been overlooked. A report released Thursday by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), an agency affiliated with the Norwegian Refugee Council that documents the numbers of those made refugees within their own countries, says Boko Haram-linked violence has forced about 250,000 Nigerians to flee their homes in the past 10 months alone.
Nigeria has Africa's largest internally displaced population and ranks third in the world behind Syria and Colombia.
Boko Haram has launched bomb attacks on major urban centers, targeted killings of local opponents, and carried out indiscriminate raids on villages throughout Nigeria's remote northeast, replete with hideous slaughters and abductions. The map above shows the scale of the upheaval, mostly concentrated around Boko Haram's power base in Borno state, which shares porous borders with Chad, Cameroon and Niger. The instability here is a regional headache and has prompted expanded U.S. military operations in neighboring countries.
Some 3,300 people have died since the beginning of the year. Nigeria has placed the three states most affected by Boko Haram's activities under a state of emergency. The IDMC says that, in part, has made the refugee problem worse:
The government's counterinsurgency operations and use of force have increased since 2013, exacerbating violence and displacement in the region. The declaration of a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states in May 2013, and the creation of civilian self-defence groups known as civilian joint task forces (CTJF), have also aggravated the spiral of violence and pushed this formerly urban group into isolated rural areas... In a region the size of Greece, nearly 50 per cent of the population has been affected by the conflict.
The IDMC adds that the poor state of medical and sanitation facilities and basic infrastructure in the region makes the plight of those displaced particularly bleak.