Nigeria

Opening remarks by the Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr. Edward Kallon High-Level Online Briefing on the Humanitarian Situation in North-East Nigeria, 13 August 2020

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Your Excellencies,
Esteemed members of the press,
Dear Colleagues and partners,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to thank her Excellency Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs,
Disaster Management and Social Development, as well as his Excellency, Professor Babagana Zulum for joining us in discussing the critical humanitarian situation in north-east Nigeria.
I would like to thank all of you for connecting today and showing continued interest and commitment to help address the humanitarian crisis in north-east Nigeria.

Nigeria today, and particularly the conflict affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe - the socalled BAY states, are facing unprecedented challenges. A resurgence in violence continues to ravage entire communities eleven years into a protracted conflict. We are also facing extraordinary challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic - a global health crisis – that no country was adequately prepared for.

A few years ago, our rapid joint mobilisation succeeded in reversing a situation where hundreds of thousands of people were on the verge of famine. Not only was famine averted, but many people who had seen their lives shattered by the conflict were starting to rebuild their lives and communities. There were hopes that we had turned a corner and we could start focusing on recovery and development.

Today, these hard-won gains are in jeopardy.

Ladies and gentlemen, as we speak, the number of people needing humanitarian assistance in the BAY states, is the highest ever recorded in the five years of a joint humanitarian response. At least 10.6 million people need our assistance to survive. This is roughly the population of Belgium and twice the population of Norway.

Despite tremendous efforts by the humanitarian community to feed over 2.5 million people, violent attacks continue preventing people from reaching their lands and rebuilding their livelihoods.
Every year of the crisis, an additional one million people have become food insecure.
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The steep rise in prices, as well as movement restrictions, due to the COVID-19 pandemic have caused insufferable shocks. An estimated 4.3 million people are now facing food insecurity at crisis or emergency levels. Increased food insecurity will lead to higher levels of malnutrition.
Without immediate support, one out of five malnourished children could die without treatment.
Children and women, in particular, are bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prevention measures, such as lockdowns, physical distancing, and school closures are impeding education, jeopardizing the future of 4.2 million children. Protection concerns are paramount, and the risks of exploitation, domestic violence and abuse are higher than ever, for women, boys and girls.
At the same time as we are fighting the pandemic, I have been shocked, saddened and outraged by the brutal attacks targeting civilians, including aid workers, in recent weeks. Incidents in which villages have been brutally attacked, houses and property set ablaze, and people burned alive.
Today, 1.9 million people remain internally displaced in the BAY states. Since the beginning of the year, nearly 60,000 people were forced to flee their homes, some for the second or third time.
More than a third of these are sleeping out in the open.

Community transmission of COVID-19 is a grave concern and we must take urgent action to prevent the virus from taking hold in IDP camps. Four out of five people in these camps are living in overcrowded conditions, with makeshift and temporary shelters - built in close proximity to each other - making physical distancing impossible.

Expanding camps and building new shelters is, therefore, a priority and we welcome the support provided by the Borno State Governor to our camp decongestion plans. While it is our priority for IDPs to be able to return home, unfortunately, persistent insecurity may not yet present conducive conditions for safe, voluntary and dignified returns.

I would like to commend and extend my sincere gratitude to Nigerian authorities, local communities and humanitarian organisations for their efforts and excellent collaboration to stem the Covid-19 pandemic in Nigeria from the outset.

Despite remarkable efforts, health experts are warning that the pandemic has not yet reached its peak in this country or on this continent.

The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting us all. Its’ devastating and destabilizing effects will be distressing Nigeria’s most fragile region. Unless we take action now, we should be prepared for a significant rise in conflict, hunger and destitution in north-east Nigeria.

The UN and partner NGOs are collectively appealing for $1.08bn to provide urgent aid to 7.8 million vulnerable people. The funding needed is less than $12 a month to save someone’s life.
Not only are the number of people in need increasing, but we also have additional costs, such as constructing quarantine shelters to curb the spread of the coronavirus, as well as other measures to keep affected populations and our staff safe.

Funding for the humanitarian operation is, however, at a historic low. More than half-way through the year, aid organisations have received less than a third of the funds desperately needed to provide life-saving assistance to nearly 8 million people.

We know that many of our donors are facing extraordinary economic and social challenges at home as a result of the pandemic, that will require vast resources. At the same time, we are hoping that you will be able to find the resources needed to ensure that humanitarian needs are met, not just in Nigeria but also elsewhere.

Now is the time for all stakeholders to take coordinated action, sustained by sufficient resources.
All actors urgently need to work together to strengthen a principled response and facilitate access to the most vulnerable people to maintain hard-won gains, and prevent the humanitarian crisis in north-east Nigeria from reaching catastrophic levels.

Now is the time for all of us to step up for the most vulnerable and demonstrate our solidarity amid the greatest global challenge of our times. Together we have already changed the course of history in north-east Nigeria for the better and we can do so once again.

Thank you.

Contact details

Eve Sabbagh, Head of Public Information, OCHA Nigeria. Email: sabbaghe@un.org; +234 90 734 30 290

Leni Kinzli, Public Information Officer, OCHA Nigeria. Email: kinzli@un.org; +234 90 624 62 630 (WhatsApp only)

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.