Concern mounts over continued spate of killings, increased suffering
By John Eche
Rising from talks with officials and victims of the crisis spawned by the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria’s Northeast, United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley has warned over the possibility of the humanitarian situation in the region deteriorating further.
Hailing the massive and joint push by Nigerian authorities and humanitarian workers to save lives, he however warned that the momentum must continue in the face of a complex and challenging emergency.
“We are seeing the power of humanitarian assistance,” said Beasley, following a trip to Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State that is hardest hit by the Boko Haram-driven crisis.
“It has changed the lives of malnourished children whose mothers once worried about whether they would survive,” he said. “It is giving hope to many displaced and hungry people, and to others who are now returning home. Together, we are making a difference, but we must build on these fragile successes.”
Beasley’s two-day visit to Nigeria — his first since being appointed to head WFP in March — included meetings with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo and Borno State Deputy Governor Usman Durkwa.
He also spoke with community leaders and young mothers at the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) camp in Maiduguri, a city that shelters hundreds of thousands fleeing hunger and conflict.
Across Northeast Nigeria this year, WFP through its partners has been delivering monthly food and nutritional assistance to more than a million extremely vulnerable people. Thanks to generous donor contributions, our steady support helps to stabilize lives.
But the overall situation remains extremely worrying. The June-September lean season has worsened malnutrition in many places.
Insecurity, poor roads and a backup at Lagos port are thwarting WFP’s current ability to reach more remote areas and deliver imported specialized nutritional supplements to some of the children who need it.
Beasley warned of the broader impact of the crisis that goes beyond Nigeria and spreads across the four-nation Lake Chad Basin region that also includes Niger, Chad and Cameroon.
“This is a major crisis that needs a security, humanitarian and development component — these are key to resolving it in the short and long term,” he said. “The international community cannot afford to ignore this problem, or it risks getting much worse.”
Beasley also noted the Nigerian government’s significant hunger-fighting commitments, which include a recent donation of 5,000 mt of rice to WFP’s operations. Authorities have launched a separate relief initiative aimed to distribute 30,000 mt of rice to hungry people in six Nigerian states.
For its part, WFP has purchased nearly $95 million worth of locally grown food for its operations, and injected an overall US$212 million into the Nigerian economy if cash transfers, transport, local salaries and other expenditures are taken into account.
WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. Each year, WFP assists some 80 million people in around 80 countries.
Interestingly, the WFP charge is coming only days after Britain halved the amount of money given to Nigeria in humanitarian aid, saying the country’s government must “step up and do more” to stop Boko Haram extremists.
The cut came following a joint visit by Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, and Priti Patel, the International Development Secretary, to Nigeria to see the UK’s response to the humanitarian crisis, where they saw how British military had been training Nigerian soldiers to fight militant Islamist group Boko Haram.
Following on that the Government announced £200million of aid funding for the four years from 2018 to 2022. It amounts to £50million per year, half the amount given for 2017.
Ms Patel said: “My job isn’t just to give aid and give money, my job is to make sure that money goes further and that we leverage that with the Nigerian government to make them step up and do more.”
Ms Patel had announced £100million in humanitarian support for 2017 earlier this year.
In 2016, around £70million of humanitarian support was provided.
In a statement Ms Patel said: “It is catastrophic that at least 20,000 people have been murdered by Boko Haram’s terrorist regime, and over five million people have been left hungry and many homeless. Babies’ bodies are shutting down and mothers who have lost everything are fighting to keep their children alive.
“Global Britain is a country that stands tall in the world and the UK will not turn its back on people living in danger and desperation.
“We are leading the way on the international stage through our world-class development, defence and diplomacy, providing a lifeline to over 1.5 million people on the brink of famine, tackling Boko Haram and pushing for global aidreform to deliver help more effectively.
“Terrorism knows no borders and the Nigerian Government must now follow our lead to stop innocent people dying and securing the area so that people can rebuild their lives in safety – reducing the threat of radicalisation and migration for the UK at home.”
Mr Johnson said: “This is about helping a Commonwealth partner in its time of need as well as addressing the root causes of international challenges.”