By Victoria Ojeme
The United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, called for urgent support for vulnerable people in the northeastern part of the country, as the number of people in need of life-saving assistance has skyrocketed.
He said that people’s living conditions and the security situation have deteriorated significantly since the beginning of the year.
Speaking at a high-level online briefing yesterday, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. Edward Kallon, accompanied by the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq and the Governor of the State from Borno, Prof Babagana Zulum, also like other UN and NGO representatives, emphasized that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates the dire humanitarian situation in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states, and runs the risk of wreaking havoc on the most vulnerable population.
“The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance is the highest ever recorded in five years of joint humanitarian response,” noted Mr. Kallon. “The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting us all. Its devastating effects will affect the most fragile region of Nigeria. Unless we take immediate action, we must prepare for increased conflict, hunger and destitution in northeastern Nigeria. “
The ongoing conflict in northeastern Nigeria, now in its 11th year, and the increase in violence observed over the past year in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states, have deepened humanitarian needs. More than 10.6 million people out of a total of 13 million, or four out of five people, will need some form of humanitarian assistance in 2020. This represents an increase of close to 50% in people in need since last year, mainly due to the increase in violence and insecurity aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are concerned for conflict-affected communities already facing severe hunger and vulnerable to the socio-economic consequences of the pandemic,” added Paul Howe, Country Representative and Director of the World Food Program. “They are on life support and need help to survive.”
Although humanitarian organizations provide food assistance to more than 2.5 million people, the food security situation has gradually worsened over the past three years. In an area where famine was averted only a few years ago and where millions still struggle day by day to find their next meal, the sharp increase in prices and movement restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic are an unbearable shock. Up to 4.3 million people could now be starving.
“Accessing the most vulnerable communities has become more challenging even for us as national organizations,” explained Ambassador Ahmed Shehu, President of the Northeast Civil Society Forum. “Many of our colleagues have lost their lives in the service of humanity. We urge the international community to support the Northeast. It is important that we all come together to provide assistance to people in need and work even more closely, especially with local actors.
“The needs are increasing and our work has become increasingly challenging,” added Charles Usie, National Director of Christian Aid, representing international NGOs. “Since the end of 2019, there are almost no roads in Borno and Yobe claims that humanitarian workers can travel. With the upsurge in violent attacks by non-state armed groups, humanitarian workers and the aid they provide are increasingly at risk ”.
Over the past year, 15 humanitarian workers have been killed in acts of rampant violence by non-state armed groups, greatly impairing the ability of international and Nigerian organizations and the Government to provide vital assistance. Despite the challenges, the humanitarian community remains committed to supporting the people of Nigeria in desperate need of assistance. The United Nations and NGO partners have already assisted more than 2.6 million people since the beginning of this year.
As needs increase, the UN and NGO partners have revised their collective appeal and budget needed to provide urgent aid to 7.8 million people who are among the most vulnerable. The requirement is now $ 1.08 billion. While needs are increasing rapidly, funding is at an all-time low. With just five months to go in the year, aid organizations have received less than a third of the required amount, which is less than 30 cents for each person in need throughout the year.
“We know that many of our donors are facing extraordinary economic and social challenges at home as a result of the pandemic, which will require vast resources,” explained the Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr. Kallon. “Now is the time for all of us to support the most vulnerable and show solidarity amid the greatest global challenge of our time. Together we have already changed the course of history in Northeast Nigeria for the better and we can do it once again. “
Since 2015, UN agencies and international NGOs have been working in northeastern Nigeria in coordination with the Government, to provide vital assistance to those affected by the crisis that has devastated entire communities in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states. . In 2019, humanitarian organizations supported more than 5.2 million people.
More than 4 million of them received emergency health treatment or support, 2.4 million benefited from food assistance; and, each day, humanitarian workers saved the lives of more than 650 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition.