The Nigerian government reported on Sunday that up to half of the food aid meant for people who have fled the country’s Islamist insurgency has not been delivered. The incident was called a “diversion of relief materials,” which many say is a euphemism for theft. Unfortunately, such ‘diversions’ appear to be all too common, according to acting Nigerian President Yemi Osinbajo, for every 100 trucks sent to the northeast with food aid, only 50 make it to their intended destinations. Millions of people have already been displaced due to Boko Haram’s terrorist regime, which is still very active, and continued poor harvests have exacerbated the country’s dependency on foreign aid. In northeastern Nigeria, over 8.5 million people are currently in need of life-saving aid and 5.2 million were food insecure before the onset of the rainy and lean seasons. Without proper aid, millions of people risk starvation in what the U.N. calls “the worst humanitarian crisis the world has faced since 1945.”
The amalgamation of severe drought and conflict, in this case, jihadi terrorists seeking to establish a West African Islamic caliphate, has created a catastrophe in Nigeria, as it has in many other countries. Northern Nigeria is currently embroiled in a fight against the terror organization, Boko Haram, and has been since 2009. The frequent attacks from the group have made it difficult, if not impossible, for farmers to plant and harvest any crops, which is adding to the lack of food due to severe drought. Over 2.7 million people have been forced to flee their homes because of the terror group, which has killed more than 20,000 people in their eight-year reign of terror. For the millions of displaced Nigerians, as well as the millions more on the brink of famine due to drought, food aid is their only hope of avoiding starvation. Unfortunately, there is currently a 74% funding gap that has caused the food security sector to reprioritize and cut rations in certain areas.
While the international community has pledged hundreds of millions of dollars, the U.N says it will need over $1 billion for Nigeria alone to tackle this crisis. Even worse, money is purported to dry up by June and July unless other international donors step up. Due to lack of funds, the World Food Program has scaled back their plans, now hoping to provide food to 1.4 million people instead of 1.8 million. However, much of that aid may never make it, which is “due to the presence of Boko Haram, roadside bombs and near-daily suicide bombings attempts in camps where displaced people live.” As such, an estimated 700,000 people will be unable to be reached by any humanitarian aid.
The consequences of ignoring this imminent catastrophe are not limited to the deaths of millions in Nigeria. Ayoade Alakija, Nigeria’s Chief Humanitarian Coordinator, warns that “the world could see a mass exodus from a country of 180 million people if support is not given, and fast.” To solve this humanitarian crisis, an increase in funding is necessary, however, it will not an easy task, especially when many are hesitant to donate to aid that will never reach its intended audience. President Osinbajo believes that “the issue of diversion of relief materials, including food and related matters… would be significantly curbed under the new distribution matrix,” which would entail 1,376 military personnel and 656 armed police guarding the food as it is distributed to displaced peoples throughout the region. Fortunately, Boko Haram’s control over the land in northeast Nigeria has been significantly curtailed thanks to regional forces and troops from neighbouring countries, which will make it easier to deliver these much-needed supplies. While no amount of money can fix the drought that continues to envelop the region and other parts of Africa, increased funding for aid, and security for that aid would enable humanitarian organizations to reach many more people in dire need.
Without the constant threat of violence, Nigeria would be in bad shape, but with the added terrorism from Boko Haram, Nigeria is in critical condition. Though 2.3 million people have been reached with food aid in 2017, millions more still face imminent starvation unless the international community follows through on their pledge to seriously address this crisis.
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