Two aides to Communications Minister Adebayo Shorty were sacked as a result of a memo addressed to him demanding payment of their emoluments. The memo, since gone viral on social media, also mentioned disclosure of the Minister’s sudden wealth. Their firings and disclaimer were contained in a statement by Deputy Director of Press in the…
“Without sufficient financing the World Food Programme (WFP) will have to reduce its vital support. A half-million children in Northeast Nigeria are suffering from severe malnutrition. Without treatment, one in five will die.”
The Associated Press attributed the above statement to Peter Lundberg, the deputy UN Humanitarian Co-coordinator in Nigeria, who wrote in a French newspaper what he considered to be the world’s worst humanitarian crises which require $242 million in the next six months to help at least 1.8 million needy people.
The import of Lundberg’s warning, which is an appeal to the international community for more funds for humanitarian services, is that if aid does not arrive in good time, food aid would be cut for more than a million hungry Nigerians affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.
In such circumstances, children are usually more at risk. Since the Boko Haram insurgency turned millions of Nigerians into refugees in their own country, reports of life-threatening malnutrition have been rife among children in the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps. There is no doubt that a shortfall in food supply would exacerbate an already bad situation.
We, therefore, appreciate the alarm sounded by the UN Humanitarian Co-coordinator. It is a clarion call and a notice to the Federal and state governments to plan ahead to stave off the looming food crisis in the Northeast. We must admit that the international community has been charitable, compassionate and, sometimes, even generous in helping the country in caring for millions of its internal refugees. Organisations like the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the Norwegian Refugee Council, the Danish Refugee Council and many others, deserve the nation’s gratitude.
But ultimately, the responsibility of caring for our displaced citizens falls squarely on the shoulders of our government. We must, therefore, draw up contingency plans that accommodate the scenario in which the international donor organisations and UN agencies fall short of expectations in terms of the resources we expect from them. Donor fatigue is a phenomenon that must not be discounted, given the many theatres of conflict in the world competing for international humanitarian aid like Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, Afghanistan and Syria. In other words, we must provide a “Plan B” position to ensure we are not taken by surprise by a sudden dramatic fall in external aid.
The way we tackle the problems of the IDPs indicates our values as a people. Our compatriots in those camps are vulnerable in so many ways. Nigerians have been generous in their giving. Many of our philanthropists have shown kindness. We still expect more rich Nigerians to stand up to be counted. We also recall that billions had been pledged in assistance to the Northeast. We understand that at date, just about 15 per cent of the pledges have been redeemed. We appeal to all Nigerian donors, those who pledged and those who have been sitting on the fence, to rise to the occasion. The civil society organisations should pick up the challenge of easing the plight of the IDPs.
We are also mindful of the many allegations of waste, fraud, abuse and corruption in the distribution of relief materials. The nation is full of stories of mismanagement of food and other resources. We urge the Federal and the Borno State Governments to monitor more closely the utilisation of resources in the camps and the safety of the towns in the Northeast to aid the return of the refugees to their homes whenever it becomes safe enough to do so. We had hoped that by now, most of the IDP Camps would have been closed and the refugees returned to their homes. But, it is apparent that although Boko Haram no longer controls territories, thanks to the efforts of our military, many towns in the Northeast still seem unsafe for residents to return to.
Let government prioritise the decimation of Boko Haram and the security of the affected communities so that the IDPs can return home to pick up the pieces of their lives.