Substantial regions of Africa’s Lake Chad Basin, particularly north eastern Nigeria, are at risk of facing famine – at least two locations likely already experienced famine last year. Lake Chad’s shrinking, years of poor harvests and a limping economy have contributed to the crisis, but the primary reason is the violence and destruction caused by the terror group Boko Haram, its attacks on the civilian population, the armed conflict with the Nigerian and regional militaries, and the resulting destruction of civilian infrastructure.
In Nigeria, the Boko Haram insurgency has caused the deaths of some 20,000 people over the past seven years, abducted thousands from their schools and homes, and practically stopped all agricultural production. It is responsible for the current displacement of 1.63 million people from their homes within Nigeria, where hundreds of thousands are cut off from assistance.
The conditions are worst in Nigeria’s states of Adamawa, Yobe and Borno, areas where Boko Haram is most active.
According to a recent United Nations analysis, some 8.5 million people there are in urgent need of humanitarian aid. In Borno state alone, 3.2 million people out of a population of 5.5 million, are facing severe food insecurity. The UN estimated that 55,000 people faced famine in 2016 and that number could climb to 120,000 by the summer. Around 400,000 children under the age of five are severely malnourished and UNICEF fears that number will also rise to 450,000.
To help mitigate this crisis of food insecurity, the United Nations has put out a call for international donations to meet the humanitarian needs of the people of north-eastern Nigeria. The 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan appeal for Nigeria, a fundraising effort coordinated by the United Nations, is for $1.05 billion dollars. However, if these urgent needs are not addressed quickly, the required budget will grow. Considering that the 2016 Nigeria appeal for 484 million dollars is less than half funded, the prospects for raising a sum of one billion dollars will be very challenging.
The United States has already committed 92 million dollars in the first quarter of the 2017 Fiscal Year- bringing the total amount for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 to $291 million.
This has become one of the world’s greatest overlooked crises. We call on other donors to move quickly in providing humanitarian funding for the millions of people in the region whose lives have been affected by Boko Haram violence and to avert likely famine.