Nigeria is in need of $164 million in humanitarian funding to prevent thousands of deaths from malnutrition in its war-torn northeast, a United Nations humanitarian coordinator said this week.
The ongoing conflict between Nigeria’s military and the Boko Haram insurgency is to blame for the growing hunger crisis in the northeast, humanitarian officials say.
The seven-year-old war has disrupted planting and marketplaces, killed more than 20,000 people and forced 2.7 million to flee in Nigeria and neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
“We’ve got as many as 250,000 children in the northeast of Nigeria who are severely acutely malnourished and we could lose up to 50,000 children before the end of the year if we don’t scale up right now,” Toby Lanzer, the U.N.’s regional humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel, told VOA.
The northeast coordinator for Nigeria’s National Emergency Management Agency Muhammed Kanar said camps in the northeast set up to house people displaced by the Boko Haram conflict are swelling with new arrivals.
“The situation is getting overwhelming, because of the liberation of [displaced people] from local governments, liberated communities,” Kanar said.
One camp in the town of Monguno recently grew from 4,000 people to 30,000, and he expects it to grow further.
Lanzer said 4.4 million people in northeastern Nigeria are “severely food insecure,” but the country doesn’t have the resources to tackle this problem alone.
Drop in oil price hit country hard
The price of oil, Nigeria’s top export, has declined globally, and the country has been particularly hard-hit by militant attacks on its petroleum infrastructure that have dropped production from around two million barrels per-day to about 1.5 million barrels.
The economy contracted in the first quarter, and many economists believe Africa’s biggest economy is poised to enter a recession. Last week, the IMF’s representative in the country told Bloomberg News that he expects Nigeria’s economy to shrink overall this year.
Lanzer says international donors need to step in to stop thousands of deaths from malnutrition.
“Nigeria’s fiscal situation is such that the country is stretched. And to expect Nigeria to step up all the way to type of levels of assistance that are required may be a very big ask for the international community,” Lanzer said.
In total, $221 million needs to be raised for the four countries affected by the fighting and resulting food insecurity.
The crisis may worsen. Last week, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network said famine could already be occurring in parts of northeastern Nigeria that aid agencies can’t reach.