By Paul Obi in Abuja
In an effort to tackle the deplorable humanitarian crisis in the North East geopolitical zone, occasioned by the Boko Haram insurgency, the United Nations (UN) Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) said yesterday that a total of $13 million have been released to UN agencies in the region to assist Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
UNICEF Country Representative to Nigeria, Jean Gough said the funds would help set in motion a workable plan that would address many of the challenges in the region.
Gough said: “The United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), on 27 June, released US$13 million to provide immediate life-saving food, nutrition and protection assistance to 250,000 newly accessible people in north-east Nigeria.
“The UN and other humanitarian partners are urgently seeking additional donor funding of US$204 million for continued humanitarian response in the north-east,” she added.
According to her, “we estimate that there will be almost a quarter of a million children under five suffering from severe acute malnutrition in Borno this year.
“Unless we reach these children with treatment, one in five of them will die. We cannot allow that to happen,” Gough stressed.
The UNICEF Country Representative maintained that “the conflict in north-eastern Nigeria, which had already displaced 2.4 million people, had also pushed food insecurity and malnutrition to emergency levels, the Nigerian Government announced on Monday.
“More than half a million people require immediate food assistance. Most of those in need are either displaced by the conflict or members of the communities hosting the displaced.
“Additionally, the violence has badly disrupted food production, markets, driven up basic commodity prices and deprived entire populations of livelihoods. Many communities are currently traversing the initial months of the lean season. At its peak in October, the number of those needing assistance is bound to rise.
“Despite the persistent insecurity, UN agencies, working closely with the Government of Nigeria and the Borno State Government, along with IOM and other NGO partners, are reaching new areas in Borno such as Bama, Damboa, Dikwa and Monguno that have recently become accessible.”
She further stated that “UNICEF was providing health and nutrition support, safe water and other services in the newly opened areas and IOM is providing household and other relief items.
“FAO is also providing food and will be distributing seeds and supporting farmers. WFP, the Dangote Foundation and other partners are working to identify sustainable solutions to delivering food in conjunction with Government partners.
“United Nations agencies and partners in north-eastern Nigeria are reporting high levels of severe malnutrition and desperate conditions in areas that have recently opened up to humanitarian assistance,” she added.
Also, Acting UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria, Munir Safieldin observed that “improving security has enabled humanitarians to access areas that were previously cut off. The conditions we are seeing there are devastating.
“While the Nigerian Government and humanitarian organisations have stepped up relief assistance, the situation in these areas requires a much faster and wider response.
“As new areas become accessible, more people in urgent need of assistance are being found. However, many localities in Borno State remain inaccessible owing to the ongoing violence and insecurity,” Safieldin stated.