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… Counts real cost of a fratricidal Boko Haram war

By Soni Daniel with UN report

Eight years after Boko Haram launched a senseless war that has claimed over 20,000 lives and displaced over 1.8 million people now scattered in IDP camps across North Eastern Nigeria, the real cost of the fratricidal war now beckons: 8.5 million people are in urgent need of life-saving assistance, 5.2 million are in dire need of food security interventions and 3.4 in urgent need of nutrition assistance. But the fund for all of this is not readily available, putting the fate of the victims in the balance and their future in uncertainty.

Halima, three, is sitting on the bare floor close to her 21-year-old mother, Sadiatu, and they are actively muttering some words to each other. The time is about 2pm on a Tuesday and they have not yet had their breakfast due to the fact that  there is no food in their new abode and the money to do so, is not available.

Boko Haram

Their abode, known as Bakassi IDP Camp, in Maiduguri the Borno State Capital, is holding them and thousands of other persons violently displaced from their ancestral homes and communities in many parts of the state and thrown into despondency, fear and distress by the Boko Haram terrorists, who have since 2009 been killing, maiming and kidnapping people in pursuit of an agenda: the declaration of a Caliphate where western education would be outlawed.

As a reporter gets close to Sadiatu and her daughter to figure out the reason for their pensive mood, the mother offered a clue: “We don’t have anything in this house and we don’t know where our next meal will come from,” Sadiatu lamented.

As she narrates her jeremiad to a team of reporters, other occupants of the make-shift camp- a housing estate planned by the Borno State Government but hurriedly converted to a holding camp for the displaced victims, many other IPDs gather around to describe their pitiable situations.

Adamu Shehu, 12, an orphan, is moving from one hut in the camp to the other in search of any form of provision, having lost her two parents to the Boko Haram terrorists when they struck Gwoza over three years ago. Beyond the violent killing of his parents, Adamu said their home was razed by the insurgents and other members of the family killed, wounded or taken away to unknown destination.

Sadiatu, Halima and Adamu are just a few of the thousands of IDPs squatting at the Bakassi Camp provided by the Borno State Government and receiving material and logistical support from the   United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UNOCHA. No fewer than five of such camps have been provided by the Borno State Government to provide temporary accommodation for the IDPs and protect them from further exploitation by their tormentors.

The three are among the 1.8 million victims of the Boko Haram insurgency, which has claimed no fewer than 20,000 lives and destroyed many hitherto flourishing communities and displaced their inhabitants across the six north east states of Nigeria, sparking one of the world’s worst refugee scenarios.

According to OCHA, the humanitarian crisis in Nigeria’s Northeast and the Lake Chad region is one of the most severe in the world today with 8.5 million in need of humanitarian assistance in 2017 in the worst affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe with the war now in its eighth year, showing no signs of abating.

Beyond the 8.5 people in need of humanitarian assistance, no fewer than 1.7 million according to OCHA, are internally displaced in the three states, with 80 percent of them in Borno State alone, the epic centre of the crisis and over half of them living outside IDP camps in local communities, who are themselves said to be among the world’s poorest people.

Aside that, 6.1 million people in the area are in need of protection while no fewer than 4000 women and girls are reported to have been abducted since 2009 by the insurgents.

UNOCHA in its latest update on the crisis entitled, Northeast: Humanitarian Review, noted, “Civilians continue to bear the brunt of a conflict that has resulted in widespread forced displacement, violations of international humanitarian and human laws, severe protection concerns and a food and nutrition crisis of massive proportions.

“Insecurity, especially in swathes of Borno State, continues to hamper humanitarian operations. However, through coordinated logistics and civil-military coordination efforts, humanitarian teams can now access some areas that were previously inaccessible. This has revealed new depth of devastation and humanitarian need,” OCHA said.

The atrocities of Boko Haram is that in most cases whole communities have been destroyed, farmlands set ablaze and the inhabitants killed or kidnapped while women have been serially raped and turned into sex machines and suicide bombers.

The situation is dire! Food is no longer coming from the farms of those communities destroyed by the insurgents while those left behind, if any, are too scared to go their farms for any kind of cultivation. This has brought about a serious threat to food security and opened the potential for starvation and malnutrition across the northeast.

The lingering threats and attacks by the insurgents have also blocked accessibility in some of the states in the northeast to humanitarian assistance providers. According to reports, the prolonged humanitarian crisis has already had a devastating impact on food security and nutrition in the North-eastern part of Nigeria with 5.2 million people currently in need of food assistance in the three most affected states and 450,000 children under five in need of nutrition support.

OCHA, whose officials are already working in the worst affected areas, says that the food situation remains precarious. It notes: “Rapid food assessments were recently carried out in eastern Borno and high food deficits and high food prices remain pronounced across the three areas surveyed in Banki, Gwoza and Pulka.

“In addition, access to vulnerable populations has been limited since July due to insecurity and the rainy season, resulting in convoy delays and an inability to reach some locations,” the agency reported.

The humanitarian situation in the Northeast has become pronounced   and caught the attention of the United Nations Secretary General, who recently raised the alarm that at least 20 million people in Nigeria’s Northeast, Somalia, Yemen and South Sudan are   facing devastating levels of food security and asked for urgent intervention to avert the disaster.

For instance, in August 2017, the United Nations said that due to insecurity and other access constraints, over 337,000 beneficiaries could not be reached in Borno’s Ngala, Gwoza, Dikwa and Monguno. Insecurity, it was gathered, has also hampered crop assessments and delivery of agricultural inputs in areas like Mobbar, Abadam and Marte local government areas of the state.

The absence of basic facilities for the IDPs and their continued displacement from their comfort zones resulted in cholera outbreak last August. As at August 31, 2017, there were 125 suspected cases of cholera in Maiduguri, Dikwa and Mongono and eight suspected cholera-related deaths.

But apparently in a move to properly organise humanitarian assistance in Nigeria and give succour to the IDPS in the northeast, UNOCHA has scaled up its operations in Nigeria with the launching of Nigerian Humanitarian Fund, NHF, a country-based pooled fund managed by the UNOCHA in support of life-saving humanitarian and recovery operations.

As a result of the launch of the fund, over 90 humanitarian organisations have aided about 4.5 million of the IDPs with nutrition, food, shelter, health, education, protection, water and sanitation support.

UNOCHA has also strengthened its humanitarian leadership in Nigeria with the appointments of new Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Edward Kallon, a veteran in humanitarian work, for Nigeria in addition to the naming of a Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator, Peter Lundberg, to take charge of the epic centre of the Boko Haram insurgency in Maiduguri.

Borno State Governor,   Kashim Shettima, whose state has borne the main brunt of the Boko Haram violence, is certain all the efforts being geared towards solving the problem triggered by the malevolent elements, will produce positive results for the people.

Shettima, who describes himself as an incurable optimist, believes the state will never and can never surrender to the terrorists.

“We will certainly defeat the terrorists and create a conducive atmosphere for the displaced people to return to their communities to re-start their lives,” the governor vowed.

With a war that started as a child’s play, now in its eighth year, taking a toll on the very people who once lived, married and interacted as brothers and sisters, now turning into pogrom, kidnapping and displacement of thousands of households and the animosity generated by it further widening the gulf between the terrorists and the rest of the people and the end not of the onslaught not yet in sight, there is urgent need to strategise on how to put an end to the crisis and save the people.

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