AN OVERLOOKED CRISIS IN A NEGLECTED REGION
Over the past year, Boko Haram has intensified attacks which have spread from north-east Nigeria to Cameroon, Chad and Niger, affecting some 20 million people. Suicide bombings and raids targeting civilians in villages and in cities around the Lake Chad basin have caused widespread trauma, prevented people from accessing essential services and destroyed infrastructure. Across the region, over 2.8 million people are displaced; most of whom are sheltered by communities that count among the world’s most vulnerable. The combined effect of growing insecurity, fast population growth and severe vulnerability resulting from a changing climate, environmental degradation, poverty and under-investment in social services is translating into record numbers of people in need of emergency relief. As of January 2016, an estimated 9.2 million people – almost one in every two – need urgent help. UN agencies and NGOs aim to reach 5.2 million with assistance across four countries.
Fast growing displacement crisis
Boko Haram violence has uprooted more than 2.8 million people from their homes across four countries, of whom 2.2 million are internally displaced in Nigeria alone. Half of those displaced are children. Many families have been displaced several times while others have sought refuge in neighbouring countries. Up to 90 per cent of the displaced have found refuge with host communities, placing a heavy strain on their resources and weakening their ability to withstand shocks. Both the displaced and host communities are in need of emergency relief and protection.
Widespread violence against civilians
Violence by Boko Haram and military operations against the group have caused serious protection risks and violations. Women and girls kidnapped by Boko Haram have been subjected to physical and psychological abuse, forced marriage, sexual slavery or forced labour. Boys have been forcibly enrolled as combatants and young girls used as suicide bombers. Boko Haram has targeted health facilities and schools, forcing health care workers and teachers to flee from where they are most needed. The increasing number of attacks and arrival of displaced children have placed an additional burden on already weak health and education systems. Safe spaces for women and children, access to essential services and psychological support must be central to the humanitarian response.
Deepening food and nutrition crisis
Insecurity, displacement, disrupted agricultural activities and cross-border trade continue to undermine communities’ livelihoods and have resulted in a sharp rise in food insecurity. Some 4.4 million people facing severe food insecurity urgently need support in the region, 90 per cent of them in north-east Nigeria. In Borno State in particular, some 50,000 people are critically food insecure and have now reached Phase 5, the highest level of food insecurity under the Cadre Harmonisé classification. In the Far North region of Cameroon, the number of people in need of immediate food assistance has quadrupled since June 2015. Similarly, in the Mamdi department of Chad, the number of people facing severe food insecurity has risen tenfold in one year. Severe acute malnutrition rates for children under five have surpassed the emergency threshold in Borno and Yobe states in Nigeria, and in Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Throughout the region, an estimated 223,000 severely acutely malnourished children could die if not urgently assisted.
Responding to urgent needs and advocate sustainable solutions
While the humanitarian strategy focuses on addressing immediate, life-saving needs of the population, humanitarian actors will call for concerted engagement of political, development and security actors to help stabilize the region and create conditions for people to survive and prosper.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.