UN pleads for aid as famine looms in Northeast Nigeria

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SAHEL | © Photo WFP Marco Frattini

19 April 2017. The top UN Humanitarian official in Nigeria is visiting Nordic capitals to ask for support warning that “the humanitarian crisis will continue to deteriorate, increasing the potential risk for a breeding ground for extremism.”

“We must all step away from business as usual. If we pause our efforts in Northeast Nigeria, needs will spiral out of control,” writes Peter Lundberg, UN Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria.

“Nigeria must not become another protracted crisis, We therefore urge donor countries - that are already contributing to the response as well as new donors – to redouble efforts now if we are to navigate away from the ‘Perfect Storm’. “

The extent of the crisis has reached unprecedented levels where 4.7 million people are currently in urgent need of food assistance, including 1.4 million in emergency, and 43,000 in famine-like conditions.  In addition 26 million people - equivalent to the entire population of Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland put together- are affected, by the conflict with Boko Haram.

There are currently about half a million children in North-East Nigeria who are suffering from severe acute malnutrition; without treatment one in 5 will die.

In late February, donors generously pledged $458 million during the first ever humanitarian conference on Nigeria - the Oslo Humanitarian Conference on Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region. The UN Security Council recently visited the area and urged donors to redouble efforts and disburse funds to prevent further deterioration of the humanitarian crisis.

“I am worried that today, almost two months after the Oslo humanitarian conference, the political will and ‘can-do’ spirits are gradually fading out,” writes Lundberg. “One third of the overall funding required to assist the most vulnerable in the region in 2017 was promised, while only 15% of the funding towards the Nigeria Humanitarian Appeal has been received. For the next six months (April- September), WFP needs US$ 242 million to assist 1.8 million people – more than US$ 1.3 million a day. Without sufficient funding, WFP will need to cut back its life-saving support.”

After meetings with foreign ministry representatives, aid agencies and civil society in Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo and Helsinki, Lundberg will  be a key note speaker at the Displacement Conference of the Norwegian Refugee Council on 24 April, Oslo, where he will give an overview of the displacement situation and humanitarian response in North-East Nigeria.