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Violence In Northwest Nigeria Displaces Over 1,900 In 6 Days

Despite a worsening humanitarian situation in Northwest Nigeria, the region receives the least attention from the government and the international community.

Conflict in Northwest Nigeria displaced some 1,912 people between May 2 and 8, 2022, according to the latest figure by the United Nations’ Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM).

According to the DTM, armed groups carried out a series of attacks in two Northwest states — Zamfara and Katsina, burning down houses and killing up to 61 people. At least 70 people were injured in the attacks.

The attacks affected 1,973 people in the local government areas of Bakura, Maradun and Tsafe in Zamfara state and Jibia in Katsina state. At least 1,035 children were also affected.

A snapshot of the percentage distribution of the population  affected by the recent attacks in Zamfara and Katsina states. Source: IOM

Women were the most affected, representing 60 per cent of the vulnerable population — 1,188, while men represented 40 per cent, numbering 785. 

The new displacement raises the spectrum of assistance needed to sustain life higher in the affected states. Source: IOM

The security situation in Northwest Nigeria is fuelling the fastest growing displacement crisis in the country.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, Zamfara, the epicentre of violence, records the highest number of displacement, with over 300,000 people.

The crisis has also led to the emergence of refugees. Nearly 100,000 people have fled across the border to the neighbouring Maradi region in Niger Republic.

According to the DTM, no fewer than 969,757 IDPs (157,519 households) were registered across Benue, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Plateau, Nasarawa, Sokoto and Zamfara states, by the end of Dec. 2021.

Attacks spike

Since the start of 2022, terrorists have ramped up attacks despite ongoing military offensives in the region. 

Nigeria’s ill-equipped and overstretched army has struggled to contain the spread of violence.

In the Human Freedom Index report for 2019, Nigeria had the second-lowest grade for safety and security, scoring 2.35 out of 10 after  Iraq which scored 1.22. Chart by ‘Kunle Adebajo/ HumAngle.

In the past, governments such as Zamfara state had tried to broker peace with the terrorists but yielded no good result. Local communities have enlisted the help of volunteer partisans to help the army but they have incurred retaliation by the terrorists who attack them and the communities they help.

Worsening conditions, yet less humanitarian response

The displacement crisis has left many villages deserted with people facing harsh conditions after losing their livelihoods or farmlands. For those who remain in their communities, terror warlords would levy them, order them  to stop working on their farmlands or risk getting attacked.

The situation has compounded a food crisis in the country.

An estimated 2.53 million people in the Northwest are projected to face acute food insecurity (Phase 3 and above) in June – Aug. 2022 lean period. Five per cent of the total food insecure population (138,476 individuals) are internally displaced persons (IDPs), of which 26,000 are in the emergency acute food insecurity phase (CH phase 4).

Unlike the insurgency in the Northeast, the international community has largely ignored the Northwest conflict, even as attacks have ramped up since 2019.

“The violence in the Northwest doesn’t have the same international coverage and intention as in the Northeast, which is partly part of the reasons behind the difference in humanitarian interventions,” Murtala Abdullah, HumAngle’s Head of Armed Violence Desk, said.

“Other factors include the lack of proper camps for displaced people and the limited presence of aid actors in the region.”

The limited presence of aid organisations, Abdullah said, impacts the amount of assistance available and the living conditions of displaced persons, who often have to rely on  help from philanthropists. 

“This could further escalate the rise in illnesses associated with a lack of food, clean drinking water, shelter, healthcare and other basic services,” he said.

“Doctors without borders, one of the few aid organizations in the region, has treated thousands of children for acute malnutrition, measles, malaria, cholera, and respiratory infections.”

Although the local authorities provide a level of support to some displaced people in certain areas, they are generally hostile to the idea. 

The hostility could be linked to attempts by local authorities to discourage the creation or growth of refugee camps. However, this approach creates a false illusion that the problem does not exist.

The illusion affects the ability of displaced persons to access the aid and essential services they need.  

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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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