“The situation in Maiduguri is critical, there is need for all development and humanitarian actors to scale up their support to complement efforts by the government in Borno State,” said Fatma Samoura, UN resident and humanitarian coordinator who is also UNDP resident representative, at the end of her first mission to the north-east of Nigeria.
Ms Samoura visited Maiduguri March 31 –April 1, 2016, during which period she met state authorities, humanitarian actors from international non-governmental organisations, internally displaced persons (IDPs) in camps and informal host communities.
She used the visit to the epicentre of the more than five- year-old military insurgency that has ravaged the region to engage with state authorities, humanitarian actors and UN staff working in providing the much needed humanitarian assistance. The visit was an opportunity to appreciate the extent to which their interventions were addressing the vulnerable population’s immediate needs and explore ways of enhancing UN support to both the federal and state governments’ efforts.
Nearly 15 million civilians have been affected by the Boko Haram insurgency, which has resulted in over 2.2 million being displaced and over 170,000 forced to migrate to other countries. Borno State has been the most affected with 2 million IDPs.
During her visit to Maiduguri, Ms Samoura, while commending the efforts of the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) in providing the support to the victims of violent extremism, appealed to the humanitarian community to supplement these efforts as the IDPs and host communities’ needs exceed the current capacity of the state authorities and humanitarian actors operating in Borno State.
After visiting Dalori I IDPs camp in Maiduguri, she commended the local authorities for ensuring that people were provided with at least two balanced meals per day; children, even those from IDP camps, were being allowed to go to public schools; health facilities had been set up and competent human resources deployed. Dalori I camp hosts over 30,000 IDPs.
Ms Samoura noted, however, that a lot of attention was being given to victims sheltered in formal IDP camps. This, she said, was at the expense of the more than 90% IDPs who are being looked after by host families and communities. “The level of assistance needed by host families and communities has not been met by the international community and humanitarian actors on the ground. There are discrepancies in the treatment being received by IDPs in camps and those in host families – this is further consigning the already vulnerable people to more suffering,” she stated. The situation requires urgent attention as it may get worse after the rainy season sets in.
Close to 2 million people are still residing in host communities and their coping mechanisms have begun to be eroded. While women are engaged in knitting, men are engaged as labourers in the city. “These people are in urgent need of support to rebuild their livelihoods,” Ms Samoura restated as she called for enhanced presence of NGOs in the area to help with provision of food supplies, primary health care as well as shelters, water and sanitation.
Within the region, close to 4 million people are food insecure, 2.5 million are malnourished, 3.6 million have no access to safe drinking water, close to 2 million have no access to adequate sanitation, more than 3.5 million are in urgent need of healthcare and over 2 million are still living in makeshift shelters.
As the insurgency continues to affect remote communities in north-east of Nigeria, thousands of civilians stranded in areas hard to reach by humanitarian actors are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. Ms. Samoura said she was exploring ways of working with the national and state authorities to ensure that these people are reached and much needed aid is provided.
During the visit to Borno State, Ms Samoura had an opportunity to meet with the executive governor Kashim Shettima whom she commended for his leadership and commitment in addressing the conditions of the IDPs in the state. She further expressed appreciation for the role he has played in ensuring dignified and safe living conditions for this population. “The UN System in Nigeria is encouraged by the state government’s commitment to supporting the return of IDPs in a voluntary and well-informed manner, where conditions for a safe return are guaranteed,” she stated.
The UNDP chief stressed that it was important that IDPs be returned to their areas of origin in a safe and dignified manner, and that relocations are undertaken in accordance with humanitarian principles. She used the meeting to reaffirm UN support and commitment to supporting his efforts in this regard and that the UN stood ready to support mechanisms that will be developed to facilitate the return of IDPs to their areas of origin.
Ms Samoura further stated that the humanitarian community warmly received the governor’s decision to open schools that had been hosting IDPs for the last year. She added: “In order to scale up support from, and enhance coordination of, our humanitarian response, and in light of the significant challenge that the crisis presents, I have decided that the centre of coordination be moved to Maiduguri and UN senior staff will be deployed accordingly.”
Governor Shettima expressed gratitude to the UN System in Nigeria for the efforts deployed in supporting local authorities respond to the crisis. He emphasized that urgent support was needed in rebuilding Borno State, providing primary health-care, water and sanitation, employment opportunities and most importantly education. While acknowledging the support being provided by the federal government and humanitarian actors in the state, he said a huge gap still remains. “I have the firm intention to reinvigorate the agricultural sector and I want to invest in the whole value chain of the sector because I strongly believe that this will help create employment opportunities for my people,” he stated.
Ms Samoura noted later: “I have spoken to the executive governor of Borno, officials from NEMA and SEMA on their capacity to respond to the most urgent needs. They are urgently appealing to the humanitarian community as well as the international community to support them as their capacities have been outstretched already … for us in the UN we remain fully committed to delivering all projects articulated under the 2016 Humanitarian Response Plan.”
The visit to Maiduguri was also an opportunity for Ms Samoura to hand over to the executive governor 10,000 female dignity kits and 144 comprehensive reproductive health kits for the benefit of some survivors of Boko Haram insurgency and communities in which they live. “We know that the ongoing insurgency puts the lives and livelihoods of civilians at risk and the UN stands shoulder to shoulder with the government of Nigeria to provide humanitarian assistance to survivors, especially vulnerable women and girls,” she said.
During her visit to Maiduguri, Ms Samoura was accompanied by Mohamed El Munir A. Safieldin, deputy humanitarian coordinator (DHC); Vincent Lelei, head of office, OCHA Nigeria; and Koffi Kouame, UNFPA deputy representative.
—Reported by Lucky Musonda, head, communications unit, UNDP Nigeria