Flying in aid workers by helicopter to remote, hard-to-reach areas previously cut off from help by Boko Haram violence across northeast Nigeria has provided more than 45,000 people with aid over the past week, the United Nations said Thursday.
Many of those receiving aid have received little or no assistance so far, the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) said.
A military push against the jihadist group Boko Haram has enabled troops to enter remote parts of northeast Nigeria in the last few months, but insecurity and the fear of violence has restricted access to some areas by road for many aid agencies.
Many children at risk
Some 4.6 million people are going hungry across the region, of whom two million need food aid urgently, the WFP said.
"These missions help avert famine and aim to reach tens of thousands of hungry people stranded in remote areas or in areas difficult to access due to insecurity," WFP's country director for Nigeria, Sory Ouane, said in a statement.
Around 400,000 children are at risk from famine in the states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe — 75,000 of whom could die from hunger within months, the United Nations says.
"Our teams will carry out emergency missions as long as needed," Ouane added.
More help on the way
The WFP plans to fly in teams of aid workers across the northeast a dozen times a month — backed up by food delivered by road where possible — to provide support to some 300,000 people.
In some parts of the region, more than half of children under the age of five are malnourished, according to the WFP.
But hunger and malnutrition rates have improved hugely in areas that have become accessible in recent months, Ouane said.
Militants displace thousands
Boko Haram militants have killed about 15,000 people and displaced some 2.6 million in Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria during a seven-year campaign to carve out an Islamist caliphate.
The Islamist group still launches deadly attacks despite having been driven out of much of the territory it held in 2014.