The United Nations is asking the Nigerian government and the international community to take urgent humanitarian measures to save lives and ensure the protection of hundreds of thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the nation’s northeast.
The United Nations expert on IDPs, Chaloka Beyani, made the call on Monday after a four-day visit to Nigeria.
Signs Of Advanced Malnutrition
Mr Beyani described the situation resulting from the over six years of Boko Haram terror campaign and Government counter-insurgency measures as “displaying all the hallmarks of the highest category crises”.
“We are only starting to get a grip of the gravity and extent of the crisis, as civilians, including children, leave newly liberated areas.
“They bear the signs of advanced malnutrition, and of deep trauma, having been caught in a conflict that has cost them their homes, their livelihoods and often their family members,” Mr. Beyani said.
The expert pointed out that the fighting had created more than 2.5 million IDPs in the region.
In a statement issued on Monday the UN expert on IDPs said: “The situation must no longer be downplayed and it is not too late to save many lives. But to do this, the Government must act urgently to ensure that food, shelter, medical care, water, sanitation and other essential services reach IDPs without delay.
“Due to a gross underestimation of the crisis, the existing supplies will only cover needs for a very short period of time and will be soon outstripped by demands in the weeks or months ahead,” he said.
According to the UN expert, “the vast majority of IDPs live outside camps and receive little or no assistance. Urgent steps are required to identify those people and assess their needs, particularly those of the most vulnerable, as well as the needs of host communities who are supporting them with their own resources”.
“Settings For Exploitation”
The Special Rapporteur, who visited IDP camps in the Maiduguri area, highlighted that many people within camps in newly liberated areas may be faring little better.
“Food is scarce and many survive on one basic meal per day while medical care is insufficient. Civilians also require urgent protection, psychosocial support and counselling.
“Humanitarian agencies have little access to some areas due to security concerns and have been targeted by Boko Haram, whose terror activities have been contained by the Nigerian military but still pose a significant threat and danger.
“Camps should offer protection. Yet I am alarmed to learn that many are in fact the settings for exploitation and abuse of the most vulnerable. Reports indicate that women and girls face demands for sex to access food or to leave the camps.
“Early pregnancy and marriage are commonplace while many do not report abuse due to stigmatisation, cultural factors and the knowledge that perpetrators can abuse with impunity. Protection measures must be stepped-up and camps must quickly come under trained civilian management to prevent abuses,” he said.
The Special Rapporteur also acknowledged several positive measures taken by the Government such as a plan for rehabilitating the north-east and the establishment of oversight systems by the Parliament.
However, he expressed concern about the lack of international attention and resources to meet the immense needs in the region.
He called on donors to provide generous support to meet immediate needs and to enhance their long-term support, to ensure the return, reconstruction and durable solutions for IDPs as well as stability and social cohesion in the region.
The Special Rapporteur thanked the Nigerian Federal Government and the Borno State Government for their cooperation with his mandate. He will produce a full report and recommendations to be presented to the Human Rights Council in June 2017.
Mr Beyani’s call is coming few days after UNICEF said that about 49,000 persons are at risk of death before the end of the year if nothing was done.
UNICEF has also called for nutritious foods and community mobilisers that will go from door to door in the affected region to get the affected children to places they could be treated.