The U.N. food agency is warning of an acute food shortage for people in Nigeria and the surrounding region who are fleeing Islamic Boko Haram militants.
The World Food Program says nearly a half million people are facing a food crisis in Nigeria and bordering countries. It says in Niger and Cameroon, malnutrition rates surpass the 15 percent emergency threshold, with some areas near the Nigerian border having malnutrition rates as high as 35 percent.
Violence by Boko Haram militants in northeastern Nigeria has forced more than 200,000 people into neighboring Niger, Cameroon and Chad. It has also caused growing numbers of internally displaced people, with 100,000 in Cameroon alone.
WFP spokeswoman Adel Sarkozi said the food shortage is affecting the entire region.
“This has become a regional crisis. It's affecting not only Nigeria but the neighboring countries with people fleeing across the border," she said.
"Those who are suffering the most are, unfortunately, the children. In Cameroon, for example, we can see the malnutrition rates going very high - up to 35 percent in some of the border areas. WFP is doing everything it can. We are helping refugees and the people displaced within the countries. But we need more support," Sarkozi added.
The WFP says it is aiming to provide food to nearly 400,000 people each month and is appealing for more than $40 million through the end of the year. It says in the past two months, it was only able to provide food to about half the people it was trying to assist.
Boko Haram has carried out many attacks in northeastern Nigeria during its six-year campaign for a strict Islamic state.
Recently, it has expanded its attacks into Chad, Cameroon and Niger, prompting the armies of those countries to join the Nigerian government's fight against the militants. Boko Haram has since lost most of the territory it had captured for what group leader Abubakar Shekau described as a caliphate.