Sunday, 28th May 2023

Crisis in North East will worsen without urgent help, UN warns

By Odita Sunday (Abuja) and Victor Gbonegun (Lagos)
23 June 2022   |   2:40 am
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has expressed worry over the welfare of millions of women and children in North-East Nigeria

United nations.<br />Eduardo Munoz-Pool/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by POOL / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has expressed worry over the welfare of millions of women and children in North-East Nigeria affected by protracted armed conflict, even as the country enters the lean season.

The UN body revealed that over eight million people are in need of assistance in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (BAY) state and that an estimated 600,000 face emergency levels of food insecurity because of violence around the Lake Chad region, now in its 12th year.

The acting UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria, Matthias Schmale, while briefing member states in Geneva on the situation in the North East, called on the international community to get resources to aid the most vulnerable children, who face food insecurity.

According to him, although the previously dominant Boko Haram militia has been significantly weakened since the group’s leader was killed over a year ago, the terrorists continue to carry out indiscriminate attacks.

Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) another extremist offshoot, he noted, is also dangerous, even while suffering setbacks.

Schmale stated that, as recorded in previous years, a staggering one million people are also beyond the reach of international aid teams.

“More than 80 per cent of those in need are women and children, who also face abductions, rape and abuse, while indiscriminate attacks in Borno make the state the most ‘unstable place to be’,” he said.

He told journalists in Geneva that the UN was aiming to support at least 5.5 million of the 8.4 million people in need overall.

“The conflict has left 2.2 million people displaced. We’ve just entered what is called the lean season that normally lasts until September – last year it lasted until November; so we are also seeing the impact of climate change,” Schmale said, noting that “although Nigeria is a major 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 is early in the day yet, in terms of understanding the full impact. There was speculation, in the beginning as to whether Nigeria would benefit (from the war) as an oil-producing country. We’re not seeing that yet, because Nigeria, as contradictory as this may sound, depends very largely on the import of refined oil. So, the price increases we’ve seen are not benefiting Nigeria.”

According to him, of particular concern are the 1.74 million under-five children, who are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition in the North East in the coming months.

“If we don’t get funding soon for an initial multi-sector response plan worth $350 million, we will have a crisis that will be much worse in a couple of months. We hope the international community realises that you ignore a situation like in the North East of Nigeria at your own peril; it could have far-reaching consequences beyond the borders of Nigeria if we’re not able to keep it stable,” he asserted.