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UN humanitarian chief makes virtual visit to north-east Nigeria

27 Apr 2021

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Ammal Alkali, who was displaced from Dara Jamal, a village in the Bama local government area, in 2014 in the wake of attacks by non-State armed groups, speaks with Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcok during the virtual visit. © OCHA/Adedeji Ademigbuji

The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, recently made a two-day virtual visit to north-east Nigeria to get an update on the evolving humanitarian crisis, which is now in its 11th year.

Mr. Lowcock spoke to affected families living in camps and host communities, as well as to humanitarian workers caught in the conflict, to hear their stories and discuss their current needs. Those affected stressed their concerns related to food security, safety and livelihood support, and expressed a deep wish to see peace again.

“We’ve listened very carefully to what families have suffered. My job is to understand the situation on the ground and find how to get more help for these people. I have been in Maiduguri three times in the past three years and am familiar with the situation there. The UN will do what we can to help these families and continue to work with the Nigerian Government to meet the needs of people we are helping in remote places,” Mr. Lowcock said.

During the virtual visit, humanitarian workers also expressed the need to be protected against attacks while delivering life-saving assistance in hard-to-reach and fragile communities.

They told Mr. Lowcock harrowing stories of fear, trauma and loss that they experienced when they were under attack. These events further underscore the need for the world to recognize that attacks on civilians, humanitarian workers and their assets in the region are not only unacceptable, but also unconscionable.

A growing instability
The attacks by non-State armed groups last week in Damasak, where humanitarians were clearly targeted and assets destroyed, have resulted in a temporary suspension of humanitarian operations in Damasak. This has affected the principled delivery of humanitarian assistance and protection to nearly 9,000 internally displaced people and 76,000 people in host communities in Damasak alone.

Amma Alkali, a 66-year-old mother who spoke with Mr. Lowcock, was displaced from Dara Jamal, a village in the Bama local government area, in 2014 in the wake of attacks by non-State armed groups. She fled to Cameroon and lived in the Minawao refugee camp.

A year ago, Amma returned to Maiduguri, in Borno State, in north-east Nigeria, with her 11 children. On their way to Maiduguri, she lost her husband and the eldest son. She is currently living at NYSC camp in Maiduguri. She said she is not ready to return to Bama until the Government provides adequate security, food and shelter support.

“I provide for 10 children and my husband is not around. I also support my daughter-in-law, who also lost her husband, who was my eldest son. The assistance that we are receiving is not enough. So, if we must return home, the place must be safe for us. Food must be available,” Ms. Alkali said.

The OCHA Nigeria Head of Office, Trond Jensen, and his team speak with internally displaced people before their virtual meeting with Mr. Lowcock. © OCHA/Adedeji Ademigbuji

The conflict in Nigeria has evolved into a protracted humanitarian crisis with no signs of abating. About 8.7 million people are in need of immediate assistance– more than 5 million of whom are children. The growing instability in north-east Nigeria has an impact beyond the region and is impeding the country’s growth and development potential.

The UN and partners are seeking to raise nearly US$1 billion this year to help the people in dire need in north-east Nigeria.