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Opinion | Jun 20, 2016

Helping Assess Crisis In Lake Chad Basin

Bloodshed in the northern states of Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe, Taraba, and Bauchi terrified residents to abandon their homes for safety across the 36 states of the federation and across borders.

Since 2009, killings and destructions in the mentioned states by members of Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, popularly known as Boko Haram (BH), have affected about fourteen million people.

Boko Haram is a sect that has been fighting naively hard to establish an Islamic State and also end western education in the north-east region of Nigeria. The group has been engaging Nigerian security forces in severe warfare.

Many efforts made by the presidency to end the insurgency proved abortive with the group causing untoward mayhems in the towns and villages across the north east of the country and by extension in other parts of northern Nigeria.

The conflict became chiefly forceful in 2014, with the government gasping for help. Within the Lake Chad Basin, there was estimation that 250,000 people were in-search-of protection in Niger, Cameroon, and Chad.

The internally displaced people (IDP) were on the increase with Cameroon unaided, recording more than 90,000 dislodged people. The Federal Government of Nigeria requested assistance from the international community, especially the United Nations (UN), to review the requirements related to peace building and crisis recuperation in the troubled north.

From Nigeria’s presidency, Professor Joy Uche Angela Ogwu, a former Foreign Minister of Nigeria (and has been the Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations in New York since 2008), waited tolerantly for August 12 2015 to come by for a United Nations Security Council meetings, to discuss the issue.

The meeting was offered in harmony with the 2008 Joint EU-UN-WB Declaration on crisis assessment and recovery planning, geared towards discussing strategies in tackling terrorism.

The presidency was worried that if nothing was done, the number of malnourished persons affected in the north-east would be on the increase with estimation by the UN that there were 223,000 relentlessly malnourished children that could die if urgent measures were not applied.

UN Envoys To Nigeria
When the UN Special Envoy to Nigeria, Leila Zerrougui representing the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Children and Armed Conflicts, visited Nigeria, she found out that humanitarian crisis Boko Haram had brewed in northern Nigeria was intensifying.

The international body guesstimated that the number of internally displaced persons (IDP) was between two and three million. International Alert, a peace-building group, and the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in different fora, accounted that those captured (especially women and children by the sect) and later freed by the efforts of security agents, were often rejected by their towns and villages, with the fear that they had been radicalized and might recruit others.

Zerrougui said that she witnessed people's shock and disbelief at the devastation suffered by their communities, and saw trauma in children's eyes. She further expressed that the scale of the suffering was way beyond what she anticipated to find; the people she met demanded and deserved urgent protection.

The UN envoy in addition uncovered that over 900,000 people, many of them women and children had fled their homes in the North-east; over 300 schools had been rigorously destroyed, and hundreds of children killed, injured or abducted from their homes and schools.

After Zerrougui Visit
Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator of the UN, Stephen O’Brien arrived to Nigeria on May 18, 2016.

He was on a two-day visit, to assess the humanitarian crisis created by Boko Haram insurgency.

It was disclosed in Abuja by the Head, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), Miss Kate Pond.

“The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, will be in Nigeria from May 18 to 19, to take stock of the humanitarian crisis in the Lake Chad Basin.

“The crisis in the Lake Chad Basin, including Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad, has continuously deteriorated over the last two years.

“Insecurity and counter-insurgency measures have affected over 2.4 million people, making it the fastest growing displacement crisis in Africa,” Pond said.

Pond frowned that communities in the Lake Chad Basin “are already struggling with the effects of climate change, environmental degradation, chronic food insecurity and malnutrition.”

Kate harangued that the conflict has dramatically exacerbated their Internally Displaced Persons’ vulnerability. In the worst-affected areas, she said, almost half of the population of up to 9.2 million people need assistance; and more than three million of the Internally Displaced Persons were affected by food insecurity.

Hence, the UN vowed to make the crisis in the North east an international issue at the World Humanitarian Summit, which was intended to take place in Istanbul, Turkey, on May 23-24 2016.

$500m Appeal To Tackle Refugee Crises
On 25 January 2016, the United Nation High Commission on Refugee (UNHCR) had appealed for financial aid from the international community to the melody of $500 million.

The fund, as according to the UN, was to facilitate its effort in providing humanitarian aid to millions of people forced to flee due to conflicts in Nigeria and by extension, the Central African Republic (CAR).

The UNHCR Regional Refugee Coordinator for CAR and Nigerian situations, Liz Ahua, said, “These two humanitarian crises must not be forgotten; they are not going away. The suffering is great and the needs acute among both the displaced and host communities.

“Violence occurs on almost daily basis in north-eastern Nigeria and CAR, generating fear and new displacement in the region, citing suicide attacks, kidnapping, indiscriminate killings and massive human rights abuses.”

Assistance/Donation Of Food
The World Food Programme (WFP) was particularly troubled about the state of displaced persons, saying that malnutrition rate was higher than the disaster brinks.

The WFP was present in the three countries of the Lake Region of Chad. The body provided food and other assistance to “refugees, returnees, IDPs, and the communities that are hosting them”.

“Life-saving food assistance is being provided along with specialized nutritional food to treat malnourished children under five, and pregnant and nursing women.

“In March, WFP provided food assistance to more than 100,000 people in the three countries, and blanket supplementary feeding activities were launched in Cameroon and continued in Niger to prevent the nutritional status of children under five and nursing women from getting worse,” said a Nigerian official with the presidency who claimed anonymity.

Checks, however, revealed that the WFP had plans to reach close to 400,000 people each month with essential food assistance, even without burning funds. But it had vowed that with its efforts in making sure that the growing needs were met, the WFP was only 25 percent funded – with US$33 million needed at present to meet urgent needs over the next six months.

Odimegwu Onwumere is a Rivers State based poet, writer and consultant and winner, in the digital category, Nordica Media Merit Awards 2016. Tel: +2348057778358. Email: [email protected]

Odimegwu Onwumere
Odimegwu Onwumere, © 2016

This author has authored 582 publications on Modern Ghana.
Author column: OdimegwuOnwumere

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