Aid organizations working to stop the famine in Nigeria will run out of money by June if donors do not give the cash they pledged at a conference in February, worsening an already difficult situation, a U.N. official said on Monday.
The famine in the northeast of the West African country is one of four hot spots, together with South Sudan, Yemen and Somalia, that constitute the worst humanitarian crisis the world has faced since 1945, the U.N. said in March.
In Nigeria, 4.7 million people, many of them displaced by the conflict with Islamist insurgency Boko Haram, need rations to survive. Of these, an estimated 43,800 people already experience famine, the U.N. said.
Two months ago international donors pledged $457 million at a conference in Oslo to address the needs of Africa's Lake Chad region — Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad — to go towards the $1.5 billion the U.N. says it needs this year.
For Nigeria, aid agencies working on the crisis have so far received only 19 percent of the money appealed for, according to Peter Lundberg, the U.N.'s deputy humanitarian coordinator for the country.
By comparison, aid agencies working on the crisis in Cameroon have received 23 percent of the money appealed for; those in Chad 4 percent and Niger 47 percent.
"At it stands right now we believe we are running out of money by June-July," Lundberg said in an interview, adding that donors he had talked so far had cited bureaucratic reasons for the delay.
Lundberg was in Oslo as part of a tour of Nordic countries to encourage donors to make good on their commitments and will travel to the U.N. in New York later Monday to discuss the issue with other U.N. member-states.
Without funding now, he said, aid agencies cannot feed enough people, provide the seeds and tools local farmers need to plant crops, or prepare for the rainy season that starts in May, when deteriorating road conditions mean people will be harder to reach.
The most critical needs for funding are for the World Food Program, which provides rations to 1.3 million people a month, said Lundberg.
"They may have to cut rations instead of scaling up as they should ahead of the rainy season," he said. And the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Agency, which helps farmers plant crops, has received only $12 million of the $60 million it needs, he added.
Earlier this month Reuters reported that WFP's funds could run dry within weeks.
The U.N. is unable to reach an estimated 700,000 people, mostly in the remote parts of Nigeria's Borno state, due to the presence of Boko Haram, roadside bombs and near-daily suicide bombings attempts in camps where displaced people live.