ABUJA, Nigeria, January 29, 2019/ — Millions of civilians continue to grapple with extreme adversity across north-east Nigeria and the rest of the Lake Chad region where a recent surge in violence has uprooted tens of thousands more people, exacerbating an already dire humanitarian situation.
Top UN officials are calling for support to respond to a humanitarian crisis that is now in its tenth year. The UN and partners, in support of the Governments of Nigeria and of countries hosting Nigerian refugees, simultaneously launched the 2019-2021 Humanitarian Response Strategy and the Regional Refugee Response Plan, respectively seeking $848 million and $135 million to continue providing food, water, shelter and protection to the most vulnerable people in Nigeria and neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger. The Humanitarian Response Strategy also articulates a collective vision for the next three years of humanitarian action and marks the first time in Nigeria that humanitarian actors are adopting a multi-year approach.
“We must sustain the efforts made over the recent years to ensure that aid reaches those who need it most. The decade-long conflict has brought immense suffering upon children, women, men, their families and communities. We have saved millions of lives, and as we strive to provide immediate response to new and existing humanitarian needs, we must also focus on addressing the causes of such untold suffering,” said Mr. Edward Kallon, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria.
Humanitarian organizations in Nigeria are targeting 6.2 million people hardest-hit by the crisis in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states in the country’s north-east. Although aid groups targeted almost the same number of people in 2018, this year’s budget is around $250 million less than the previous year, based on the assessed needs and the realistic capacity to deliver aid. Last year, donors provided 67 per cent of the funds, or $700 million, enabling humanitarians to provide aid to more than 5.5 million people.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, seeks funding for the 228,500 Nigerian refugees who have fled into neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger, and points to a disturbing trend of events. “Attacks are still happening, killing civilians and forcing thousands to flee for their lives. Young girls, old women and aid workers continue to bear the brunt of this escalating theatre of violence,” said Liz Ahua, Regional Refugee Coordinator for Nigerian refugees and UNHCR Regional Representative for West Africa.
The escalation in the conflict has thwarted the people’s intention of returning to their homes. “Some refugees that attempted to return to their homes and communities have become displaced multiple times in their own country or have retreated to Cameroon, Chad and Niger to continue in exile,” Mrs. Ahua added. As Nigerian refugees continue to arrive in very remote and impoverished communities in neighbouring countries, “it is time to broaden our response towards a longer term approach, to support those forced to flee and the communities hosting them, as they are already living below the poverty line and in dire need as their capacity to help those displaced is stretched to the limit.”
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) is co-launching with UNHCR the Nigeria Regional Refugee Response Plan. “The continuing conflict in north-east Nigeria further increases the vulnerability of refugees, IDPs, families and host communities already facing deep development challenges,” warned UNDP’s Regional Coordinator, Nana Oumou Touré-Sy. “Together with humanitarian partners and governments, UNDP supports the comprehensive response to the refugee crisis by targeting weaknesses and vulnerabilities of refugees and host communities as a way to mitigate the risk of conflict between communities. This will ensure sustainability of humanitarian and development responses especially in longer term and protracted crises.”
Today, 2.5 million people are displaced across the Lake Chad region, with 1.8 million in Nigeria alone and 228,500 being refugees in neighbouring countries. A recent upsurge in violence in north-east Nigeria has displaced over 80,000 civilians who have sought refuge in crowded camps or in towns in Borno State and are surviving in arduous living conditions. Over 15,000 have fled to neighbouring Cameroon and Chad in the past weeks. The hostilities have also strained humanitarian operations and forced aid workers to pull out from some locations. The destruction of livelihoods and infrastructure is widespread: around 1.7 million people are currently food insecure in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states; 368,000 children are severely acutely malnourished; two-thirds of health facilities have been damaged; and around 900,000 children lack schooling.