Hunger stalks NE Nigeria

The ongoing conflict with Boko Haram in West Africa has pushed the number of people facing the threat of severe hunger to more than 6 million according to the latest assessments, say 15 humanitarian organizations. The warning comes as governments and donors meet to talk about the humanitarian crisis in the Lake Chad Basin region at the UN General Assembly in New York on the 23 September.

The revised UN appeal is calling for US$559 million until the end of the year to meet the emergency needs caused by the crisis. Organizations say that without more money they are unable to reach the most vulnerable people even in areas that can be accessed.

Over 65,000 people are already living in famine in pockets of northeast Nigeria, and over one million people are one step away from famine. In the countries of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon there are 6.3 million people severely food insecure. Of these 4.4 million people are in Nigeria.

At the UN General Assembly world leaders will also discuss the plight of refugees and migrants, but those who have fled their homes but remain inside their countries will be missed from the discussions. With 2.6 million people on the move, the Lake Chad Basin is Africa’s fastest growing displacement crisis and should be high on their agenda.

Yannick Pouchalan, Action Against Hunger’s Country Director for Nigeria: “What we are seeing is families teetering on the edge of famine. If organizations can’t reach communities in areas trapped by the conflict, we will be looking at a far greater disaster than we are currently facing. Many of those arriving in camps are already severely malnourished. We see families who have not eaten for days, many are begging for food. If the situation continues to deteriorate many more people may die.”

In some areas of Borno state in Nigeria, the rate of acute malnutrition in children under five is over 50 percent. This is similar to what was seen during the 2011 crisis in Somalia when the scale and severity of hunger led to a declaration of famine.

The conflict, and military operations to counter it, has meant that farmland, rivers and lakes that people rely on for growing food and fishing are off limits as part of military operations in Nigeria, Niger and Chad. Markets have been closed, and people’s means of transport, such as motorbikes, have been banned, cutting people off from their ways of making a living.

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