In December 2016 alone, the United Nations food aid agency delivered food/cash to more than a million people in conflict-affected zones in northeast Nigeria, meaning that over half of those in need of urgent humanitarian assistance have now been reached.
“The needs are of course tremendous, and more has to be done. Even so, this is a dramatic expansion from the 160,000 people we were able to assist as recently as October,” said Sory Ouane, Nigeria Country Director and Emergency Coordinator of the World Food Programme (WFP), in a news release issued on Frirday.
The milestone came as WFP ramped up its response in Borno and Yobe States, where as many as four million people are food insecure. The region has been devastated by years of violence linked to the Boko Haram insurgency: in some areas, more than half of all children under five suffer from acute malnutrition.
In areas with functioning markets, more than 170,000 people were assisted with cash. Nearly 800,000 people – most of them internally displaced, in camps or in host communities – benefited from food distributions; and almost 180,000 children under five were given specialized nutritious food.
Under its new Rapid Response Mechanism, which includes extensive use of helicopters and the pooling of logistics and telecommunications resources across the humanitarian community, WFP has managed to reach areas that were previously inaccessible.
“While it has been challenging to scale up and provide timely, life-saving food assistance, we are now looking at ways to assist even more people in need – as many as 2.5 million by April 2017,” Ouane added.
WFP is funded entirely by voluntary contributions and needs a total of $208 million for its humanitarian response in northeast Nigeria over the next six months, of which $143 million has yet to be found.