By Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
In order to prepare the ground for a worldwide appeal of $1.05 billion donation for the North-east ravaged by Boko Haram, a delegation of 12 foreign governments and 13 international donor agencies visited Borno State on Wednesday to assess the level of need.
In the delegation were representatives of United States, Britain, Japan, Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Ireland, South Korea, Switzerland, Sweden, France and European Union, among others.
Addressing a press conference on Wednesday evening after a tour of towns including Bama and Gwoza devastated by the insurgents, the Irish Ambassador to Nigeria and Ghana, Sean Hoy, who led the other members of the delegation, said they decided to make the trip to Borno State in order to update the ambassadors of the countries that would participate in the dire situation on the ground.
He said that for the donor conference scheduled to hold in Oslo, Norway to be successful, there was need for the participants to see things for themselves before proceeding to Europe to make an appeal for donation.
He revealed that his team of ambassadors and heads of embassies were shocked about the level of damage in the North-east theatre of war, and lamented that the situation was worse than that of Aleppo, Syria.
The ambassador said that they were in the state to prepare the mindset of the delegation to ensure that the ambassadors are updated about the sad humanitarian problems on the ground.
Hoy said that enough information had not been made available in the international domain for willing donors and that with the visit to Borno State, the team is now adequately informed on the situation on ground.
He revealed that they also parlied with faith-based organisations where they pleaded that the leaders should participate in the de-radicalisation of the people especially the young ones.
On the scaling up from humanitarian to developmental position, the ambassador said: “We are still in the humanitarian stage and it was difficult to proceed to developmental stages yet but believes there could be a scale up of humanitarian situations as expected to clear the way.
“The agencies cannot function here without the military which is why we commend them but I use this point out here that the situation is quite fluid. We must accept some flexibility for things to work out easily.”
Justifying the budget, Hoy said that issues like protection, food security and education of the people were vital which is why he believes they must go on with whatever they are doing to save the people of Borno and the entire North-east of Nigeria.
On recovery, he said it has to be voluntary and at a pace where everyone sees it as such.
“Deadlines cannot really be set because of shortage of funds,” adding that if they get more than the target of a billion all well and good.
The South Korean ambassador, Noh kuy-du, who also took turn to speak to journalists, said he would advise his government to participate in the alleviation of the problems on the ground in the war theatre now that he has been here for the first time.
He however warned that the efforts of the humanitarian community alone is not enough, adding that the most important expectation from those who will contribute is that the Nigerian government would be involved in this big time expenses big time.
The ambassador said they would ague with the government over his decision to close down the camps in May 29, adding that it is quite obvious that the date is not feasible.
Meanwhile, while the team visited Bama, the Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camp in Bama council area recorded 358 new arrivals received by the Army as a result of the mop-up operations from remote villages around Bama.
They included 21 men, a young boy and the rest being women and children.
Officials of the UNICEF-controlled health care centre at the Bama camp told newsmen that two leprosy cases and measles were found among the children of the new arrivals.
Also about 20 kids were said to be suffering from malnutrition at the “yellow” level while 10 others were at the critical stage known as “red”.
Some of the women said they had trekked for two days without food after their rescue from where they were held captive.
Also, some of the young women and children among those rescued are believed to be spouses of fleeing militants as suggested by a 17-year-old lady whose thrèe-month-old child was seen among the malnourished.
“We have been staying in kokoshe, when our husbands go to work and bring some money we buy grains to eat, it’s N200 per measure. Then they came and took him away to prison, I don’t know what he did. But he is not a member of Boko Haram,” she said.