The humanitarian crisis in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states in Nigeria’s north-east, that has spilled over into the Lake Chad region, remains among the most severe humanitarian crises in the world today. The number of people in need of urgent assistance in north-east Nigeria rose from 7.9 million at the beginning of 2020 to 10.6 million since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. UN and partner NGOs are aiming to provide life-saving assistance to 7.8 million people amongst the most vulnerable.
As Nigeria faces the unprecedented challenge of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, the humanitarian community is stepping up action to prevent the spread of the virus among communities already affected by conflict, chronic diseases and climate shocks. Since the confirmation of the first case in Nigeria on 27 February, aid workers have been adapting the way they work. Access constraints, congestion in IDP camps, and poor health and sanitation infrastructure are becoming even more challenging in the context of COVID-19. Along with the Nigerian authorities, humanitarian actors are taking action to continue delivering life-saving humanitarian assistance while maintaining prevention measures.
The crisis, largely triggered by a regionalized armed conflict, has led to severe and increased protection risks. Civilians continue to bear the brunt of a conflict that has led to widespread forced displacement and violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.
Since the start of the conflict in 2009, more than 36,000 people have been killed in the BAY states – almost half of them civilians and thousands of women and girls abducted. Violence against women, girls and children, including sexual violence, exposure to trafficking, and other forms of gender-based violence, is all too common yet underreported. Women are often forced into survival sex in exchange for food, movement and items to meet their basic needs, while some vulnerable households have resorted to early marriage and child labour. Thousands of children swell in the ranks of armed actors while predominantly women and children are compelled by non-state armed groups to carry person-borne improvised explosive devices (PBIEDs).
Entering its eleventh year, the conflict continues to uproot the lives of tens of thousands of children, women and men.
Today, 1.9 million people are still internally displaced, some living in dire conditions. Over 80 per cent of them are in Borno State – the epicentre of the crisis. Four out of five internally displaced people are women and children, and one in four are under the age of five.
Insecurity due to ongoing hostilities and military operations have led to waves of mass displacement and continue to impact humanitarian operations. Vast swaths of Borno State are considered high or very high risk for international humanitarian actors, often constraining access to desperately vulnerable communities. An estimated number of up to 1.2 million people remain inaccessible to humanitarian actors, 81 per cent of whom are in Borno State.
Since 2016, humanitarian actors have been working in support of the Government of Nigeria to robustly scale up the response. In 2019 alone, more than 5.2 million people received humanitarian assistance in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states.
In 2020, scaling up critical COVID-19 responses together with other previously planned humanitarian actions is essential to address the most urgent needs, protect the most vulnerable people from the pandemic, and prevent further deterioration. UN and partner NGOs are collectively appealing for $1.08bn to provide urgent aid to 7.8 million people amongst the most vulnerable. The funding needed is less than $12 a month to save someone’s life.