Northeast Nigeria: Humanitarian emergency - Situation Report No. 1 (28 November 2016)
1.82 million internally displaced persons (IDPs)
5.9 million people in need of health assistance
400,000 children under five with severe acute malnutrition
US$292 million funding shortfall (HRP 2016)
Although largely unreported, three states in Nigeria’s north-east are experiencing one of the biggest humanitarian crises in Africa, with an estimated 13 million people in areas affected by Boko Haram violence.
Now in its seventh year, the crisis is adding to pre-existing deep poverty and chronic under-development. Up to 2.1 million people fled their homes to escape the conflict, including over 191,000 who crossed into the neighbouring countries of Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
In recent months, humanitarian workers started to gain access to areas that armed groups had previously controlled, and have been able to bring humanitarian assistance to people in urgent need.
The latest Cadre Harmonisé, a food security report, puts 5.1 million people between Phase 3 and 5 of food insecurity. If adequate assistance is not received, an estimated 400,000 children will suffer from severe acute malnutrition over the next 12 months across the states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe; with 244,000 severely malnourished children in Borno state alone.
Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are taking shelter in some relatively safe Local Government Areas (LGAs). At one time greater Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, saw its population more than double from 1 million to 2 million with the influx of people displaced from other areas of the state. The number is now nearer 947,274 for greater Maiduguri, as people return home. However, overcrowding in already inadequate living conditions places a huge strain on infrastructure, resources and basic services, as well as on the host communities.
The ongoing disruption to basic services such as health care, clean water and sanitation increases susceptibility to disease. Poor drainage and stagnant water are leading to greater incidents of malaria often coupled with severe malnutrition; and there is also an increased likelihood of waterborne disease such as diarrhoea and cholera. After two years without a reported case of polio, four cases have been confirmed in Borno since August 2016, and almost 1.8 million children have since been immunised according to WHO. Also, children are being vaccinated in camps in response to an outbreak of measles in Borno State.
In newly accessible areas, IDPs and vulnerable host populations are in critical need of assistance including food, water, sanitation, protection, education, shelter and health services. In an area already economically deprived, more than 78 per cent of IDPs are living among host communities.
The lack of access to livelihoods and resources is leading to negative livelihood coping strategies, including women and girls engaging in sex to meet basic needs, which exposes them to further exploitation and abuse, in displaced and host communities alike.
The upcoming Humanitarian Response Plan for 2017 will focus on 6.9 million people living in the three most affected states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, who require immediate life-saving assistance. Of these, 1.82 million are IDPs living in camps, informal settlements and host communities with 75,000 children at risk of severe acute malnutrition.
Over 80 per cent of Borno State is considered high or very high risk for international humanitarian actors, often constraining access to desperately vulnerable communities. This issue will be addressed partly with the imminent arrival of eight humanitarian hubs that will allow storage of life-saving items by the humanitarian community and also provide safe accommodation that will permit humanitarian workers to stay in the community on a rotational basis. These humanitarian hubs will further scale up the response and where an area becomes more safe, the hub will be dismantled and moved to another area where needs may be greater.
The centre of gravity for the humanitarian response has shifted to Maiduguri from the federal capital Abuja. The Operational Humanitarian Country Team (OHCT) is now established in Maiduguri, and is headed by the Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator who has now moved there.
For the third year in a row farmers were unable to return to the land for the planting season because of the conflict. The harvest cannot therefore meet the needs of millions of people. The fear of improvised explosive devices also discourages farmers from returning.
Conflict and displacements remain the main drivers of food insecurity: food is currently the single greatest need for vulnerable IDP populations in camps, informal settlements and host communities. From January to October 2016, about 880,700 people received food assistance either in kind or through cash-based transfers. Limited access and security restrictions are the key operational constraints faced by humanitarian organizations on the ground.
However, thanks to increased access to certain areas in Northeast Nigeria, the month of November sees the beginning of a major escalation in food distribution by humanitarian organisations; for instance, WFP has increased its in-kind food assistance from 100,000 beneficiaries reached in October to 348,000 beneficiaries reached in November. It is anticipated that in-kind food assistance will continue to increase steadily from now until early next year, aiming to reach over 800,000 beneficiaries by February 2017. Although details of the scale-up are still being defined, it will allow humanitarians to reach populations that have not benefited yet from food assistance.
It will be achieved through escorted food convoys travelling by road and humanitarian workers travelling by helicopter, to reach an increasing number of locations in hard-to-reach areas. This substantial development has been facilitated by new funding to purchase food locally on the Nigerian market, to rent additional warehouse space for storage of food commodities, to cover air and surface transport costs and to set up a network of hubs (see above) for storage and accommodation.