Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
The United Nations has lamented that COVID-19 has increased the number of people in dire need of life-saving assistance in Nigeria to 7.8 million.
Speaking to THISDAY yesterday, the Head, Public Information Unit, United Nations Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA) in Nigeria, Ms. Eve Sabbagh, said before the pandemic in Nigeria, the humanitarian situation were already bad with 7.1 million people needing urgent life-saving assistance in 2019, the number which has since grown to 7.8 million people due to COVID-19 in 2020.
Sabbagh said: “Before the COVID-19 pandemic got to Nigeria, humanitarian needs were already worsening and increased from 7.1 million people in need of urgent life-saving assistance in 2019 to 7.8 million people in 2020.
“The UN and its partners needed $834 million to provide urgent aid to 5.9 million people.
“We are half-way through the year and so far only 15% of funding has been received. Now with the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on the economy and livelihoods, many more people need urgent assistance.”
She revealed that in 2019, the UN and NGO partners provided assistance to 5.2 million people. “Every day they saved the lives of 650 children facing severe acute malnutrition in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States. Nearly three million people received food assistance and over four million benefited from health services.
“With the funds available now, aid organisations have been able to immediately react to the COVID-19 pandemic by setting up hand washing stations, distribute soaps, and are erecting quarantine and isolation centres in the North-east,” she said, adding that “with the rainy season and the lean season approaching, it is critical to have the funding needed to bring assistance in areas like Rann, which risks being cut off due to floods.
“It is also extremely important to have funding in time to provide support to farmers during the planting season, as there is a risk to see more people facing hunger this year.”