The United Nations has earmarked the sum of $2.1 billion to be given out as grants to people affected by the humanitarian crisis in northeast Nigeria.
The United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock told journalists in Abuja, on Sunday that the grants is to help victims of the insurgency to recover and build their lives.
He added that alongside the UNDP Administrator, Ashim Steiner they had visited high-risk locations around Borno and the Lake Chad region and stressed that, “The UN remains very committed to working with the government to meet humanitarian needs.”
A war of words has broken out between the United Nations and the DR Congo government which is shunning a donor conference in Geneva to raise $1.7 billion to tackle a humanitarian crisis that Kinshasa says has been vastly exaggerated by aid workers.
Prime Minister Jose Makila on Friday said the UN had overreacted and that aid bodies and NGOs in the country were propagating a “bad image of the Democratic Republic of Congo throughout the world”.
“The Democratic Republic of Congo declines to participate in the Geneva conference” on April 13, he said.
The United Nations has declared the humanitarian crisis in the DR Congo to be a Level 3, the UN’s highest-level emergency.
“While recognising that the country is facing an emergency situation … the activation of the top-level humanitarian emergency acts as a brake” for development and discourages investors, Makila said.
At least 13.1 million Congolese are in need of humanitarian aid, including 7.7 million who are severely food insecure, the UN Security Council said Thursday in a unanimous statement.
The UN children’s agency had sounded the alarm at the end of last year saying 400,000 children risked dying in the central diamond-rich Kasai region, which has been ravaged by conflict.
At least 3,000 people have died and about 1.4 million have been displaced.
“We are not now saying that children risk dying, but we are saying that children are already dying,” UNICEF spokesman Christophe Boulierac told AFP.
UNICEF has only been able to care for 65,000 children diagnosed with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), the most acute form which can lead to death, Boulierac said. “That’s far too few.
“This is not the time to discuss strategies,” he said. “If we act now, we can save lives.”
An AFP team visited Kananga, one of the main cities in Kasai this week and found an overwhelming number of children with SAM at the Saints Martyrs health centre where in a matter of minutes, eight out of 10 children were diagnosed with the condition.
– ‘Catastrophic situation’ –
The other two had chronic malnutrition which stunts mental and physical development.
“Children with SAM are nine times more prone to dying than a properly nourished child,” said Marie-Louise Misenga, a nurse at the centre.
Bibomba, aged about seven, sat patiently in front of the centre next to a 17-year-old boy. Both had skeletal figures.
“My granddaughter is facing death. She’s very sick and she’s not eating or going to school,” wailed Angele, the grandmother of nine-year-old Aimee.
At Tshikapa, another town in Kasai, eight children died of malnutrition in a few days at the Eben Ezer church where 200 displaced families are being housed and receive support from British charity Oxfam.
“I was shocked to see the reality. The situation is catastrophic,” said Ghislain Mumbere, an engineer who had come from Kinshasa to clean up local sources of drinking water.
Greater Kasai, grouping provinces created in 2015 in a change of internal borders, exploded into violence in September 2016, after soldiers killed a local traditional leader known as the Kamwina Nsapu.
Fighting between security forces and Kamwina Nsapu loyalists has since killed more than 3,000 people and displaced 1.4 million, according to the Roman Catholic church. Successive harvests have been destroyed.
The Presidency has re-affirmed that the Emergency rule currently imposed on Adamawa, Yobe and Borno states is meant to protect the civilian and the territory from the assault b on the Nigerian state by insurgents and terrorists. This re-affirmation comes on the heels of a special report by Aljazeera (see the report here) which indicates that large numbers of civilians have been caught in the cross-fire between military forces and insurgents but reacting to the widely televised report in a statement, President Goodluck Jonathan’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati stated that the report on state of emergency and “civilian casualties” is contrived and misleading.
The statement reads:
We view with grave concern, the attempt by sections of the media, especially the foreign media to mislead the general public and the international community about the on-going State of Emergency and military operations in three states of the Federation: Adamawa, Yobe and Borno. For the avoidance of doubt, the declaration of a state of emergency and the consequential security operations are meant to protect the civilian population and the territory from the macabre and dastardly assault on the Nigerian state by insurgents and terrorists. It is not an operation against innocent citizens as Al-Jazeera and others are suggesting.
In executing this sovereign objective, President Jonathan explicitly directed that the operations be conducted in line with applicable rules of engagement and peculiar care in managing a unique situation. In an earlier statement, he had also made it clear to the military high command and received assurances that those who violate their operational orders will be disciplined accordingly. In line with this regard for the rights of the civilian population, the President Jonathan had ordered the release of women and under-aged persons in protective custody, and made arrangements for their immediate rehabilitation. Fifty eight persons in this category have been released.
The Armed Forces have also secured the release of six women and children in Boko Haram captivity. There is nothing to suggest so far any violation of operational orders by the troops operating in the North East. Their intervention has received popular support, among the civilian populace, and within two weeks of operation, the possibility of calm and normalcy resonates even as enclaves of terrorists are raided and their capacity to continue their reign of terror heavily compromised. This is a process and the Government owes it to the people of the North-East to see it through.
The Jonathan administration believes that media reporting of the reality of living in a state of emergency is needed to keep the local and international community well informed and to hold accountable those prosecuting the military operation to help build trust and sustain the public support needed to build lasting peace.
Rather curiously however, the last two weeks have witnessed mischievous attempts by a section of the media to generate negative propaganda around these operations in the North East. Most recently, a video report by Al-Jazeera yesterday titled “Civilians among dead in Nigeria offensive” (May 31) sought to put the government and the people of Nigeria in bad light. This is regrettable. While we welcome an open interrogation of government’s activities, we reject any attempt to exploit the security situation in the North East to malign, discredit or otherwise undermine the country’s efforts by other surreptitious means. There can be no doubt that the Al Jazeera report of May 31 is in very bad taste.
Two quick points will highlight the concerns here: (1) the video is that of the unfortunate incident that occurred in Bama on May 7 and has no connection with the current operation. If anything, the victims shown in the video were those the Boko Haram attacked before they launched an offensive on the Bama prison (2) the claim that the man in uniform shown in the video is a Nigerian soldier cannot be sustained, because in a war-like theater as we have on our hands, anybody could have been clad in a military fatigue; and we have seen Boko Haram members appear in military fatigues in their propaganda videos. Besides, no soldier has left the frontlines since the beginning of the operations. Surely, this type of reporting on a serious national security issue is irresponsible and should be deplored by all.
We reaffirm the Government of Nigeria’s commitment to and belief in the professionalism of the Nigerian Military, an institution that has served with distinction on many occasions across the region and outside. We deplore the effort to encourage terrorists through unverified and inaccurate reporting, and the desperation to blackmail the current peace and security process.