By Uchechukwu Afamefune
Nigeria and nine other African countries have topped the Norwegian Refugee Council’s annual list of neglected displacement crises. It is the third year in a row African countries have topped the list of neglected displacement crises that is uprooting millions of lives.
Nigeria is 10th on the list which is led by the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC and followed by South Sudan (2nd) and Central African Republic, CAR (3rd).
Others are Burundi (4th); Ethiopia (5th); Palestine (6th); Myanmar (7th) and Yemen (8th). The list has been compiled based on three criteria – funding fatigue, political and diplomatic neglect and dearth of media attention and interference
As the NRC Council launches its annual list of neglected displacement crises, it observed that the conflict between the Nigerian Armed Forces and the armed group, Boko Haram and associated splinter groups, has continued to drive people from their homes in Northern Nigeria.
According to NRC, 1.7 million Nigerians were internally displaced and 200,000 lived as refugees in neighbouring countries by the end of 2017. In a study it conducted in October 2017, the NRC established that 86 per cent of the displaced people said they were not ready to go home yet.
Findings showed that public services have collapsed in areas where the conflict has been raging and nearly half a million homes and a large number of schools, health facilities and water supply sources have been destroyed.
Although some refugees have started to return, the NRC said 8.5 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance in Nigeria at the end of 2017 and 450,000 children were suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
According to the Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, NRC, Jan Egelan, the price of neglect is borne by mothers not being able to feed their children, youth being deprived of education and entire nations becoming dependent on emergency.
“Today, the Norwegian Refuge Council launches our annual list of neglected displacement crises. These are crises that seldom make media headlines or reach foreign policy agendas before it is too late.”
Egelan further encouraged humanitarian assistance to be given based on needs and needs alone. “The list should serve as a reminder, both for us as a humanitarian organisation, for the media and for politicians. The fact that we do not see these people suffer, does not make their suffering any less real and it does not absolve us from our responsibility to act,” he noted.
Egelan said a young nation like South Sudan is one of the neglected countries free-falling towards a catastrophe. “Seven out of 10 people do not know if and when they will have their next meal. Our eyes cannot be shut to an entire nation starving because men with guns and power are not willing to make peace with each other.
Many people affected by the conflict have very limited access to humanitarian assistance, as ongoing hostilities and bureaucratic impediments make it difficult for humanitarian organisations to reach several areas.
Funds pledged at Oslo Conference for Lake Chad Basin in early 2017 helped forestall famine, but the crisis which has its epicentre in Nigeria – still needs significant global attention. Most of the political and media attention focuses on the security aspect of the crisis, whereas the scales of displacement and humanitarian needs are often overlooked.
“Apparently, there seems to be willingness, both locally and internationally to find a way out of too many of these crises. In some places, this is due to a lack of geo-political importance, while in other places, there are too many parties and actors with conflicting interests and too few willing to protect the interest of the civilians,” Egelan added.
Several of the crises on the list have been raging for years and even decades, leading to multiple displacement of people.
It is also increasingly difficult to attract necessary funding for the most protracted and least prioritised crises.