Lake Chad area in 'full-blown humanitarian crisis': Red Cross

Nigerians from the northeast town of Baga sit in a United Nations refugee camp in N'Gouboua, Chad, on January 27, 2015 (AFP Photo/Sia Kambou)

Geneva (AFP) - The Red Cross on Tuesday warned of an increasingly dire situation in Nigeria and other countries circling Lake Chad, where hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee Boko Haram violence.

"There is a full blown humanitarian crisis around this lake, not only in Nigeria but also in the surrounding countries," said Jean-Yves Clemenzo, spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The situation is "very, very difficult," he told reporters in Geneva.

More than 13,000 people have been killed and some 1.5 million forced to flee their homes since Boko Haram launched its insurgency in northern Nigeria in 2009.

Recent cross-border attacks by Boko Haram, which at the weekend pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, have increased security fears further.

"Violence in Nigeria is not only claiming lives and forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes in the country itself; it is spilling over into neighbouring Chad, Niger and Cameroon, where the humanitarian situation is also deteriorating," ICRC said in a statement.

Lake Chad is a strategic area where the borders of Cameroon, Nigeria, Niger and Chad meet, and all four countries are involved in a regional fight-back against the militants.

The group in turn has expanded out of its northeast Nigerian stronghold to attack Chad and Niger.

"We are increasingly concerned about the impact of the conflict on thousands of families," Karl Mattli, head of the ICRC delegation in Nigeria, said in the statement.

"Many of those affected in north-eastern Nigeria have had to travel long distances to reach safety and are now struggling to meet their basic needs," he pointed out.

The Red Cross said it had stepped up its aid efforts in the region, providing food, household items, sanitary facilities and assistance to medical facilities to help them cope with the influx of casualties.

The aid helps, Mattli said, "but it's not enough. More has to be done."

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