Nigeria: evidence indicates elevated risk of famine in the Northeast
Multiple experts, including Action Against Hunger, have validated new analysis confirming an elevated risk of famine in Nigeria’s Borno State among populations cut off from humanitarian assistance due to the Boko Haram insurgency. The international humanitarian organization Action Against Hunger warned that unless the international community and the Government of Nigeria intensify efforts to provide safe access for humanitarian organizations to reach people in these “no go zones,” Borno will spiral into a dire, but still avoidable emergency.
The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), of which Action Against Hunger is a partner, issued an urgent alert that famine is likely ongoing—and “likely to continue”—in inaccessible areas of Borno state. According to the IPC alert, persistent conflict is the main cause of extreme hunger and widespread displacement in Borno.
Action Against Hunger’s Country Director for Nigeria, Yannick Pouchalan, said, “The alert suggests that civilians are suffering tremendously in areas we can’t reach. They have little or no food, no clean water, and no emergency health services. We are gravely concerned that numbers of children could be dying every day from preventable diseases unless they can be reached by humanitarian assistance.”
The IPC alert indicates that food security has improved in the “newly liberated” areas of Borno where humanitarian organizations are responding. Preliminary data from an Action Against Hunger assessment suggests that after four months of emergency nutrition and food assistance interventions in Monguno in north Borno, the prevalence of acute malnutrition has decreased to below emergency thresholds. But any interruption in the current levels of assistance could threaten the fragile improvements that aid agencies have achieved. Until markets resume functioning, and until displaced populations can safely return to their communities and resume farming as their source of income and food, they will remain dependent on food distributions and humanitarian aid for their survival.
“Considering the enormous scale of needs and the trauma people have endured, we need to do more than just keep people alive: we must reach populations cut off from help, but we must also scale up our programs to meet the urgent survival needs of people in the areas we can reach,” said Pouchalan. “Food stocks are very limited, and the next rainy season will put vulnerable children at even greater risk from threats such as malaria. We must do everything in our power to ensure the protection of civilians in this crisis and mobilize interventions to provide shelter, psychosocial support, comprehensive primary health care, sanitation and longer-term solutions to help people rebuild their livelihoods.”
Action Against Hunger joins the United Nations and humanitarian partners in urging the international community and all parties in Nigeria to ensure immediate, unimpeded access to insecure areas to alleviate suffering and to ensure that humanitarian assistance is delivered in a principled manner. We also urge the government to ease bureaucratic impediments for importing essential supplies and to expedite visa processes so that humanitarian personnel can be positioned where they are needed most. It also imperative for humanitarian organizations to have access to no go zones to conduct assessments and accurately quantify the scale of urgent needs.
Action Against Hunger has current programs in Yobe, Jigawa, and Borno States, where we have been working since 2010. Since May 2014, we have continuously scaled up our health, nutrition, food security, and water and sanitation programs in Yobe and Borno States. In August this year, we launched a new emergency program in the newly liberated area of Monguno in north Borno, where we are currently assisting displaced people with food, water and sanitation, health services, and emergency nutrition.
This week, Action Against Hunger also mobilized a new response in a previously inaccessible area of north Borno called Cross Kawa, where we have begun distributing supplementary food to pregnant women and nursing mothers, and screening and treating children suffering from severe acute malnutrition. In the coming weeks, we will distribute emergency shelter, hygiene kits, and supplementary food to children under five in Cross Kawa, where people have not received any humanitarian assistance for about two years.