Statement by the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General & Regional Humanitarian Coordinator, Toby Lanzer

from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 08 Jul 2016

(MAIDUGURI, Nigeria, 8 July 2016): “Since 5 April when I visited Bama, the United Nations has travelled by road to various parts of Borno State, Nigeria. Thanks to the Nigerian authorities, access for aid agencies has improved markedly over the past three months. This week, I was able to travel to the historic town of Dikwa and the important city of Monguno.

Throughout my six visits to Nigeria’s north-east, I have been spell-bound by the energy and resilience of the people. I have no doubt that, if the situation were entirely stable and state and private sector investments in the economy were taking place, Borno and Yobe would be thriving. As Fatma, a woman displaced from Baga told me, ‘Make Baga safe, and I’ll take care of the rest’. Likewise, the central market in Monguno showed me this week how much people can achieve for themselves and their communities when security reigns and when the civilian structures of the State are in place to ensure a social contract between institutions of the State and the population.

Despite the remarkable advances in security and access over the past months, Boko Haram continues to sow instability and threaten the lives and livelihoods of millions of people, 90% of whom used to rely on farming, fishing and livestock. Whilst admiring the reconstruction of Monguno’s market and vibrant atmosphere created by the traders, I listened to a resident, Ousmane, who told me that, for the third year in a row he could not access his fields just north of Monguno to farm. Ousmane fears that he has no means to feed his three children.

As of today, 4.4 million people are severely food insecure across Nigeria’s north-east; and, listening to girls, boys, members of the youth and elders in Dikwa and Monguno this week highlighted the untold suffering they have endured over the past three years. People feel unsafe. Villages have been torched. Boys and men have been killed. Sisters and daughters have been raped. I am struck by the desperate levels of human suffering on the one hand, and the deep sense of hope and resilience of the people of Borno on the other.

The United Nations and its partners have the experience needed to work with the authorities in support of people struck by the violence. We can provide food, clothing and water. We can help get children back into a class room. And, together with the authorities, we can address the underlying issues that punctuate this crisis. We stand ready to act and scale up our response. With an injection of US$ 200 million from the international donor community, we can feed 431,000 people to keep them alive; resolve the severe acute malnutrition of 50,000 children so that they see their next birthday; and, help ensure that girls and women are protected.

But time is running out for the poorest and most rural of people in the country’s north-east. A failure to act now will result in deeper and broader suffering, unlike anything seen to date in Nigeria’s north-east and a steeper bill for all concerned to alleviate suffering and stabilize the situation.

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