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Northeast Nigeria’s Humanitarian Situation May Worsen Without Urgent Help — UN Official

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria says he is concerned about the deteriorating situation for millions of women and children in northeast Nigeria. They continue to be affected by protracted armed conflict just as the country enters the lean season.

The humanitarian crisis in Northeast Nigeria may become direr if aid funding requirements are not met as the country enters the lean season,   Matthias Schmale, the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria, said.

Over eight million people require humanitarian assistance in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (BAY) states that have faced the 12-year-old Boko Haram insurgency, according to the Nigeria Humanitarian Response Plan 2022.

Schmale said the UN aimed to support at least 5.5 million out of the 8.4 million in need. 

“The conflict has left 2.2 million people presently displaced… In addition, we’ve just entered the lean season that normally lasts until Sept.; last year, it lasted until Nov., so we’re also seeing the impact of climate change.”

He said in a video message that conditions were likely to worsen as an estimated 600,000 face emergency levels of food insecurity because of the extremist violence centred around the Lake Chad region.

According to him, more than 80 per cent of those in need are women and children, who also face “abductions, rape and abuse”.

He added that indiscriminate attacks in Borno State make it the most “unstable place to be.

The UN official noted that although Nigeria is a significant oil producer, it lacks refineries which means that it has not benefited from the global surge in energy prices linked to the war in Ukraine.

“It’s early days yet in terms of understanding the full impact. But, as you may know, in Nigeria from the beginning, there was speculation as to whether Nigeria would benefit as an oil-producing country,” he explained.

“We’re not seeing that at all because Nigeria, as contradictory as this may sound, depends very largely on imports of refined oil, so the price rises we’ve seen are not benefiting Nigeria; that’s one concern.”

The country is facing fuel shortages which have impacted the surge in food prices.

While Nigeria could feed itself and avoid ever costlier food imports, it lacks the infrastructure and agricultural investment required to compete globally, according to the UN official.

Acute malnutrition

Of particular concern are the 1.74 million children under five who would suffer from acute malnutrition in the Northeast in the coming months.

Only 20 per cent of the country’s $1.1 billion required for funding humanitarian response has been covered.

“A key message is ringing the alarm bell,”  Schmale said. “If we don’t get immediate funding soon for an initial multisector response plan worth $350 million, we will have a crisis that will be much worse in a couple of months.”

“We hope that the international community realises that you ignore a situation like in the northeast of Nigeria at your peril; it could have far-reaching consequences beyond the borders of Nigeria if we’re unable to keep it stable.”

Boko Haram, a constant threat

He said Boko Haram attacks offset the gains in improving the region’s humanitarian response.

Although previously dominant Boko Haram with its offshoot, ISWAP, has been significantly weakened since the group’s leader was killed over a year ago, he said that it continues to carry out indiscriminate attacks. 

As in previous years, a staggering one million people remain out of reach for regional international aid teams.

The terrorists resorted to attacking soft targets and using increased IED and illegal vehicle checkpoints on main supply routes in Borno and Yobe States, following sustained military actions in the region. 

In May, Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, during his first visit to Borno State, assessed the displacement situation and urged donors not to forget the country’s displaced populations whose livelihoods had been upended by years of conflict.

In 2021, Nigeria ranked eighth in the countries with the most neglected displacement crisis.

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Aishat Babatunde

Aishat Babatunde heads the digital reporting desk. Before joining HumAngle, she worked at Premium Times and Nigerian Tribune. She is a graduate of English from the University of Ibadan.

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