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Five things to know about the crisis in Nigeria

22 Feb 2017

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The eight-year violent conflict in north-east Nigeria has created a deepening humanitarian crisis. Boko Haram violence and military operations continue to affect millions of people across the region, and some 8.5 million people in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states require urgent assistance. Humanitarian partners plan to assist 6.9 million of the most vulnerable people.

Conflict and violence have forced more than 1.7 million people to flee their homes; more than half of these people are children. Three quarters of those internally displaced found shelter with host communities who are among the world’s poorest people. Humanitarian teams can now access areas previously inaccessible due to insecurity, but they are finding new depths of devastation.

Even before the conflict began, the six states in north-east Nigeria already lagged behind the rest of the country in terms of socioeconomic development. But the conflict that erupted in 2009 exacerbated this situation. The ensuing violence spilled over to neighbouring states and countries in the Lake Chad Basin, causing a regional crisis with mass displacement as citizens fled for their lives.

Peter Lundberg, Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, explained: "Due to the competing crises around the globe requiring the attention of international donors, the narrative on the humanitarian situation unfolding in north-east Nigeria was largely missed in 2016. But it has now reached proportions that can no longer be ignored."

The Oslo Humanitarian Conference on Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region, which takes place on 24 February, is expected to generate support for the needs outlined in the Humanitarian Response Plans and appeals.

Ahead of the conference, here are five things to know about the humanitarian crisis in Nigeria.

1. Civilians bear the brunt of a violent, relentless conflict

For the eighth consecutive year, civilians are suffering from relentless Boko Haram violence in Nigeria’s north-east region, where the military has also ramped up counteroffensive operations. Some 8.5 million people need humanitarian assistance in the worst-affected states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe. More than 1.7 million people have been forced to flee their homes across the north-east; up to 55 per cent of these people are children.

2. Insecurity remains a major obstacle to humanitarian access

Insecurity, especially in parts of Borno and Yobe states, continues to hamper humanitarian operations. In areas that have recently opened up, civilians desperately need health, protection, shelter, water and sanitation. Protection needs in the north-east, particularly in newly accessible areas in Borno, remain severe. Civilians, in particular women, girls and boys, face human rights violations and abuses including attacks, disappearances, forced displacement, forced recruitment, and sexual and gender-based violence.

3. Food insecurity levels are enormous

Food is the main concern. The levels of food insecurity and malnutrition are alarming as the humanitarian conditions continue to deteriorate in Borno, where about half a million children are expected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year. Famine-like conditions loom for over 120,000 people in the most affected parts of Borno and Yobe, while an estimated 5.1 million across the north-east need urgent food assistance.

4. People cannot return home

More than 1 million displaced people have returned to their areas of origin since August 2015, and the number continues to increase rapidly. But many returnees remain stranded in other sites because of ongoing insecurity, destroyed infrastructure and the absence of basic services. In Borno, for example, more than 470 health facilities are partially or completely destroyed.

5. Funding is desperately needed

Humanitarian response has increased over the past year. Food assistance grew from reaching 600,000 people in August 2016 to 2.1 million people by December; 82 per cent of the 900,000 targeted people received basic household items and emergency shelter assistance; and 1.7 million people received protection services, surpassing the 1.6 million target. 

But despite this progress, immediate funding is urgently required to support the scale-up of humanitarian operations. The 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan for Nigeria is seeking more than US$1 billion to meet affected people’s needs.