Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari appealed Friday for the international community to help relieve the growing humanitarian disaster triggered by the Boko Haram insurgency in a plea for aid at the UN General Assembly.
Warnings about food shortages caused by the conflict in the country’s northeast and the broader Lake Chad region have intensified in recent months, with humanitarian organisations cautioning of a looming famine.
Speaking in New York, Buhari said that the devastation wrought by Boko Haram had been compounded by climate change.
“We are renewing the call for re-dedicated international action to end the humanitarian needs of victims and address the root causes of terrorism itself,” Buhari said.
“(The) complexities and severity of humanitarian crises across the world have increased in recent times, resulting in devastating repercussions.
“The dual impact of climate change and terrorism-cum-insurgency has created deeper implications for peace and security.”
Lake Chad, straddling the borders of Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon in West Africa, is shrinking, leaving surrounding communities without freshwater.
Humanitarian organisations have compared the scale of the Nigerian disaster to the 2011 crisis in Somalia, when “more than a quarter of a million people died” amid a prolonged drought.
Two years later, the UN admitted that the international community did not act quickly enough, saying “the suffering played out like a drama without witnesses”.
In Nigeria, where there are millions of people at risk, some on the ground fear that the situation could be worse than the one that blighted Somalia.
There are more than 6 million people facing the threat of “severe hunger”, said a coalition of 15 humanitarian organisations in a statement on Friday.
Of those, over 65,000 people are “already living in famine in pockets of northeast Nigeria, and over one million people are one step away from famine,” said the organisations.
“If organisations can’t reach communities in areas trapped by the conflict, we will be looking at a far greater disaster than we are currently facing,” Yannick Pouchalan, Action Against Hunger’s country director for Nigeria, said in the statement.
Boko Haram has been pushed back following a military offensive by Nigerian and regional forces, but the scorched-earth policy of the jihadists has ravaged an already destitute region.
In July, the United Nations said nearly 250,000 children under five could suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year in Borno state alone and one in five — some 50,000 — could die before the end of the year.
The UN regional humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel, Toby Lanzer, has said $385 million (345 million euros) more is needed for northeast Nigeria alone.
*Reported By AFP