A senior U.N. official warns of catastrophic consequences for millions of people in northeast Nigeria facing a food and nutrition crisis if the U.N. does not receive the funds needed to assist them.
U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator for Nigeria, Matthias Schmale, says he is ringing the alarm bell now because the United Nations has received less than 20 percent of its $350 million appeal for Nigeria.
He says people in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states are struggling to survive after 12 years of conflict. Of the 8.4 million people who need humanitarian assistance, he says the U.N. plans to support at least 5.5 million of the most vulnerable. He says nearly 600,000 people are starving and go for days without food.
Malnourished children, he says, are of particular concern.
“Approximately, overall, 1.74 million children under five are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition across the northeast this year. Of these, over 300,000 … are expected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition and are, indeed, at high risk of death,” said Schmale.
He says about 80 percent of U.N. aid will be used to assist women and children who often suffer the most in conflict zones. He says they are subject to violence, to abductions, to rape, and other forms of abuse.
Trond Jensen is Head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Nigeria. He says much of the northeast lacks adequate protection for civilians. He says people who venture outside the fortified military garrison towns are in danger of being killed.
“It is a serious crisis in the sense that there is no freedom of movement, in the sense that much of the countryside is under the control then or the influence of the various different factions of Boko Haram,” said Jensen. “So, that there are indiscriminate killings of civilians.”
U.N. officials recognize Nigeria’s crisis is overshadowed by the disastrous war in Ukraine and is in danger of being forgotten. However, they warn ignoring the humanitarian needs of Nigeria would have far reaching consequences in further destabilizing the region.