By Rafiu Ajakaye
‘Even as the military offensive against Boko Haram scores successes, it isrevealing an understated crisis,’ says NGO head
Thousands of people in far-flung villages of Nigeria’s northeast are dying of hunger and lack of basic shelter, according to a group involved in rebuilding and reconstruction efforts in areas ravaged by the terrorist Boko Haram insurgency.
“Even as the military offensive against the Boko Haram insurgents continues to record success, it is daily revealing a crisis that has been understated. Suddenly, thousands of people are pouring out with no food, mediation, or shelter. They are daily starving to death,” Yunusa Yau, executive director of the Center for Information Technology and Development (CITAD), which has been implementing various aid and development programs in the region, told a news briefing in the northwestern city of Kano on Tuesday.
Yau said hundreds of thousands of these people were trapped in mountains, bushes, and other hideouts and were unable to farm or trade yet remain undocumented as displaced persons.
Over 2 million persons are recorded as having been displaced in the region owing to the crisis, with some taking shelter in government camps largely found in towns like Maiduguri, Bama, and Yola.
“Relief materials are channeled to known camps but those disconnected communities are even in greater need. The conditions just outside of Maiduguri [in northeastern Nigeria] are calamitous. Daily people are dying for want of food and water,” Yau said.
“As the rainy season sets, their conditions will even be worse due to lack of shelter, leaving them at the mercy of the elements that they have been exposed to for so long a time. Already there are reports of dozens of people dying every day of hunger, thirst and lack of shelter, especially in communities outside Maiduguri, and the danger of mass starvation in these communities is so real,” he added.
The group commended the various nonprofit organizations offering assistance to the displaced persons but said that these efforts so far amount to “scratching the surface”.
It called on the government to “declare a state of humanitarian emergency in the region to galvanize greater action to rescue millions of people from starvation, and develop a comprehensive framework for humanitarian intervention in the northeast”.
“In this connection, we ask that the government, in addition to a blueprint, come up with a policy on IDPs [internally displaced persons] as currently the government has no policy on IDPs and has been using the NEMA [National Emergency Management Agency] Act which has its focus on refugees from other countries rather than on IDPs.”