Sunday, November 20, 2016

Yet another forgotten tragedy

Unlike the refugees from Syria and elsewhere, whose perilous journeys to Europe have rarely been out of the headlines, the people of north-east Nigeria have remained almost entirely below the media radar. The UN’s humanitarian co-ordinator in Nigeria, Peter Lundberg, says the crisis here is worsening rapidly.

As many as 14 million people could soon be in need of help; an international funding conference is to be held in Geneva next month. The UN and other agencies are urgently appealing for additional funding to help the forgotten victims of Boko Haram. The children’s agency Unicef has raised barely a quarter of the $115m it says it needs.

They are more than three million people in north-east Nigeria who were displaced in what has become one of the world’s worst – and least reported – humanitarian disasters. The UN has warned that up to 75,000 children could die within the next 12 months unless more help arrives urgently. In Borno state,  the medical relief agency Médecins sans Frontières says thousands of children have already died of starvation and disease. According to the agency, a survey conducted in two camps for displaced people in Maiduguri indicated that mortality rates among children under the age of five were more than double the threshold for the declaration of an emergency.

Pauline Bannaman of Oxfam, which provides water, sanitation and hygiene assistance in the area, as well as small cash handouts to enable villagers to buy food in local markets, says: “We think the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better, because large areas are now opening up after the military campaign against Boko Haram, which means that more people will be returning to their homes and finding nothing there.”

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