Trapped (November 8 2019)
About 1.2 million people are trapped in some precarious communities in Northeast Nigeria. The population has no access to humanitarian aid as insurgents hold sway in these areas. Combined efforts of Nigerian partners and the international community scaled-up humanitarian assistance in accessible LGAs to 5.6 million people in 2017; 5.5 million people in 2018 and over 4 million as of October 2019. Yet, about 7 million people are in dire need of charitable support. This is as a result of massive infrastructural damage, inability to access farmlands and disruption of basic services and market areas.
The emergency grew worse in September 2019. Owing to the closure of two aid agencies working in the zone. An estimate of about 400,000 people was rendered food insecure during the period of lockdown. With the Nigerian army alleging that some aid agencies are providing support to terrorists in the region, it had ripple effects on the war on terror. While it appears that such allegations, if true, can undermine the efforts of the troops in the war zone, the closure of the aid agencies further exacerbated the deepening humanitarian crisis. The precarious nature of the area has also increased the risks faced by aid workers. Within 18 months, 10 aid workers -all Nigerians- have been killed.
Sustainable solutions are needed to address the vulnerabilities people are facing in the volatile zone. IDP camps where people fleeing from violence seek refuge have been stretched beyond capacity, further worsening the existing inhuman conditions in the areas. Host communities where IDP camps are situated are equally hostile, as the struggle for scarce resources has been intensified due to the influx of displaced persons. According to anecdotal accounts, some internally displaced persons occasionally move back to their ancestral homes preferring to face the insecurities than to live in an antagonistic condition.
It is important to map out strategies that will ensure collaborative and targeted humanitarian interventions without jeopardizing security operations in the theatre of war. The Nigerian state should interface with donor agencies to strengthen the sustainability of relief programmes in the region. A robust database of donor agencies, population and locations of people in need of humanitarian aid will ensure that limited resources are properly utilised in providing succour. Periodically also, there should be reliable reports that will help the Nigerian state and donor givers prioritise aid programmes in the region. Equally, the population in the IDP camps should be utilised in terms of skills acquisition to create wealth and value that will augment available relief materials. In conclusion, the newly constituted Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development (MHADMSD) with the help of experts and donor agencies should map out a comprehensive strategy that will lift millions of people out of the humanitarian crisis.