More than 7 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in northeast Nigeria. Since the start of the fighting between non-state armed groups and the Nigerian army in 2009, more than 35,000 people have been killed, and thousands of women and girls have been abducted. The conflict has led to widespread forced displacement and violations of international humanitarian law. An estimated 2.9 million people do not have enough to eat, close to a million children suffer from malnutrition, and 800,000 children are out of school.
What are the needs?
In Africa’s most populous country, more than 47% of the population lives in extreme poverty. In Borno state in the northeast, the decade-long conflict between armed groups and the military continues to uproot civilians and deepen humanitarian needs. The majority of people who had to flee for safety live in makeshift settlements or highly congested camps and rely mostly on support by local communities, authorities, and humanitarian organisations. They have no prospect of returning to their homes. Overcrowding brings with it lack of access to basic services, cyclical epidemic outbreaks, rampant fires and an increased risk of sexual and gender-based violence.
An increase in violence caused 160,000 people to flee their home in 2019. Food availability is deteriorating, with 50% of households in Borno state at risk of not having enough food to eat. Nutrition monitoring in Borno state shows that there has been a steady increase of acute malnutrition cases in children since 2017 (Nutrition and Food Security Surveillance: North East Nigeria). The food and nutritional situation could potentially deteriorate if sustained humanitarian assistance is not provided.
Since the beginning of 2019, a surge in attacks by armed groups has significantly deteriorated the security situation in northwest Nigeria. It drove 42,000 Nigerians to seek refuge in Niger and a further 200,000 to look for safety elsewhere in Nigeria. Communities in the region face dire living conditions due to widespread violence, criminality and hostilities by armed groups. The level of severe undernourishment in children under the age of 5 in the area has reached emergency levels.
How are we helping?
The European Union is one of the leading contributors of humanitarian aid in Nigeria. It provides immediate assistance to cover the basic needs of the most vulnerable internally displaced people and host communities in the country, and of refugees in other countries affected by the conflict in Nigeria, namely Chad (Lake region), Niger (Diffa region), and Cameroon (Far North region). Since 2014, the EU has allocated almost €245 million to help people in need in Nigeria. In 2019, the EU provided €28.3 million to support humanitarian assistance in the country.
EU humanitarian aid helps to meet the basic needs of the conflict-affected people, including emergency food aid, shelter, access to clean water, basic primary healthcare, and hygiene and sanitation. The EU currently funds food assistance in the form of cash transfers, vouchers and food rations for families, ready-to-use therapeutic food, and essential medicines to treat severely malnourished children.
Support from the EU also equips healthcare centres with water and hygiene systems, provides training for staff, and ensures screening for children who are at risk of malnutrition. The EU also supports actions that give children trapped in humanitarian crises a basic education alongside essential school supplies.
Given the special protection needs of women and children that arise in conflict situations, special community–based services receive EU funding to provide the necessary psychosocial support and referral services to victims of gender-based violence, unaccompanied children, and to help former child soldiers released from armed groups to reintegrate in society.
In order to facilitate humanitarian access to people in need, the EU supports the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) that enables aid workers to reach isolated areas.
Beyond trying to meet immediate humanitarian needs, joint efforts with development partners are required to help build long-term resilience. Nigeria is an EU pilot country for projects bringing together humanitarian, development and peace-building dimensions to address the needs of vulnerable people; and offer them social protection through a more long-term and holistic approach.
The EU also supports disaster risk reduction initiatives in disaster-prone areas in Nigeria. They aim to help vulnerable people better prepare for and reduce the impact of recurring natural disasters, such as epidemics and floods. Through these projects, essential information about risks and prevention is shared with communities and consequently, this strengthens the local response through planning and preventive actions.