From Nnamani Adanna

The new Head of Delegation for the European Union (EU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Ms Samuela Isopi, has said that about three million people are experiencing food insecurity in Nigeria with a high percentage of children suffering from acute malnutrition.

The envoy indicated that over two million Nigerians have been displaced from their homes in the North East due to the problem of insurgency ravaging the area.

Isopi made the disclosure earlier in the week at the debut of a documentary film titled “Hope”, which chronicles the suffering of people in northern Nigeria as a result of the decades-old insurgency.

“Hope” is a documentary film created by Factstory production company and sponsored by the European Union. It is based on the ravaging effects of insurgency on the population in northern Nigeria. The documentary follows the steps of an 11-year-old girl from Burma, Miriam Ibrahim, whose father was killed when Bama was taken by the insurgents in 2014. It features Muhammad Bello, a former fisherman from Baga, who fled with his family to Zabarmari, a dozen of kilometres north of Maiduguri due to heavy fighting in his home town in 2015. The documentary “Hope” shows how these programs can help people in the region aspire to a better and more dignified future.

In her remarks, the EU Ambassador said she was ‘proud that this premiere presents my very first official and public event as Ambassador of the EU to Nigeria after presenting my Letter of Credence to President Buhari this morning.

‘The film “Hope” tells us about the challenges that the residents of the North East faced in their daily lives of which their sources of income were destroyed by the insurgency.

‘A decade after the start of the insurgency in the North East of Nigeria, the region is still suffering from the loss of lives and property, food insecurity and a very poor standard of living.

‘More than two million remain displaced from their homes, while hundreds of thousands are living in overcrowded displacement sites, without proper access to sanitation and clean water.

‘More than 3 million people have food insecurity and an equally high number of children are suffering from acute malnutrition. The number of out of school children has also increased exponentially.’

The ambassador added that education for children in the North East, especially the girl child, would always remain at the centre of the union’s attention.

Earlier in her speech at the event, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Sadiya Farouq, affirmed the importance of food security for the people in the North East. She assured that the ministry, through the North East Development Commission was working assiduously to ensure that the issue of food security and malnutrition are addressed in those areas.

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The minister, who was represented by the Executive Director, Disaster Management, Dr Suleiman Abubakar, said: ‘By initiating the national poverty reduction with a bold strategy, which specifically aims to address hunger, malnutrition and poverty through economic growth and social protection programmes.

‘Furthermore, the government’s focus is on promoting local production, providing loans to farmers and skills acquisition to others to enhance the social-economic capacities of the people.

‘It is, therefore, worthy to know that the EU had been a key partner of the ministry in addressing some of the humanitarian challenges in the North East.

‘So, we further call on the EU to continue to support our efforts towards addressing the issues of food insecurity, particularly in the North East,’ he said.

Borno State Governor Babagana Zulum, who was represented by Dogo Shettima Special Assistant to the governor on reconstruction rehabilitation and resettlement, expressed profound gratitude to the EU for all its activities in the region to alleviate the suffering of the people and give them hope in the face of their plight. He said the EU had greatly assisted in the resettlement of over one million people in the North East and in the reconstruction of over 400 houses including schools.

‘So far so good, we don’t know how to thank the EU, because they have done a lot. They have helped us in reconstructing over 4,000 houses. They have helped in the areas of education. They have constructed so many schools in those areas that the IDPs have resettled. We have resettled almost nine local governments out of 11 local governments so far which houses over eleven thousand households amounting to over 1milion people through the support of the EU,’ he said.

‘Currently, Borno State is more peaceful than Abuja, because in Abuja you have cases of kidnapping, banditry but in Maiduguri, I can assure you that you can leave your door open at night and wake up peacefully. That is because of the governor and the security. Even the military right now prefers to be transferred to Maiduguri. That is to tell you that something good is happening.

‘The governor has been meeting with the President and service chiefs. He has been writing to Mr President and the service chiefs on how he will return the IDPs and approval has been given by Mr President, and the service chiefs.

Co-Director of the documentary Judith Rueff disclosed that she was mostly captivated by the courage of the people in the course of the project. She said it interested her that despite all they had been through, they could still speak about their pains.

‘What really is incredible for me about this whole documentary is the courage of the people. After all, they have been through. The courage of telling, the courage of their experience,’ she said.

She noted that one of the key messages of the documentary is the relevance of education for the people.

‘The message will be the importance of education. There are several other movies we are working on, to bring some of the Nigerian issues to the forefront in order to find solutions to them,’ Rueff disclosed.