Sunday 17 July 2016

Millions Face Death By Starvation in Northern #Nigeria, UN Warns

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), has warned that millions of Nigerians face death by starvation in Northern Nigeria as the region is just a step away from famine on a scale not seen for decades.
Hundreds are already dying every day from hunger in a food crisis caused by seven years of brutal Boko Haram insurgency, and hundreds of thousands of lives now hang in the balance.
In report by Phoebe Greenwood of The Guardian UK from Maiduguri in Borno state, the world agency warned of a humanitarian catastrophe that some in Nigeria don’t want the world to see.

The UN has been accused of failing to act quickly enough to save hundreds of thousands of lives in northern Nigeria where a food crisis already killing hundreds of people a day is poised to become the most devastating in decades.

Nigerian authorities, who maintain tight control over humanitarian and media access to the region, have also been accused of deliberate negligence and attempting to conceal the scale of the crisis.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has categorised 4.4 million people in the Lake Chad region as “severely food insecure” – meaning they are in need of urgent food aid.

Toby Lanzer, UN assistant secretary general and OCHA’s regional humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel, said: “This is about as bad as it gets. There’s only one step worse and I’ve not come across that situation in 20 years of doing this work and that’s a famine.”

“We have to step in and quickly or we are going to have hundreds of thousands at risk of dying in the north-east of Nigeria.”

Boko Haram’s seven-year insurgency has left Borno’s farmland – which previously fed Nigeria – devastated and abandoned. This will be the region’s third year without a harvest.

The hunger crisis is claiming lives even in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state and the hub of humanitarian and security forces in the region. The city has doubled in size in two years and now hosts 2.4 million displaced people. Food prices are soaring in the markets, where it now costs $100 (£75) to buy a large bag of rice.

Lanzer said UN agencies have not had the resources necessary to tackle the crisis and has called on international donors to prevent a greater catastrophe. Of the $279m (£210m) required, only $75m has so far been secured.
Isabelle Mouniaman, head of Médecins Sans Frontières operations in Nigeria, said MSF has been raising the alarm in northern Nigeria for two years and UN organisations have failed to respond.

“We’ve been calling to the UN, to the headquarters of Unicef, WFP [World Food Programme], OCHA and their response has been ‘Yes, we’re doing this and that’… But you cannot just be satisfied to say you built X number of latrines, delivered X bags of food when people are dying. It’s not enough,” Mouniaman said.

“The Red Cross is doing their job, MSF is doing their job, but the vast majority of humanitarian organisations are failing in their responsibility towards the crisis in Borno.”

International aid agencies have focused on Maiduguri’s overstretched camps, but more than 80% of displaced people in the city, around 1.9 million people, are living among the community, the vast majority without access to food aid or medical support.

The most desperate crisis is unfolding outside Maiduguri, where aid agencies fear hundreds of thousands of people are trapped, cut off by Boko Haram and the military operation against them. As the Nigerian army clears more of these areas, the true scale of the crisis is only just becoming clear; those who have escaped tell of watching children die from hunger and being prevented from calling for help.

Mouniaman said: “We’re talking about areas in which 39% of children have severe acute malnutrition. This is a really, really dramatic situation. In my whole MSF career – since 1999 – I’ve never seen anything like it.”

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