750,000 hungry people in the north-east of Nigeria

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

I wonder if the forthcoming TEESNet conference, with its focus on the SDGs, will find time to consider what's going on in Nigeria where famine is looming in Borno State in the north-east of the country.  Nigeria is Africa's second largest economy.

The Economist reports that the UN estimates that 240,000 children in Borno are suffering from severe acute malnutrition, and that more than 130 will die everyday without help.  Further, across the wider north-east of Nigeria, a population equivalent to New Zealand’s is in need of food aid.

All Boko Haram's fault, some will say, but the Economist thinks that both the Nigerian government and UN agencies are culpable, the former for playing down the problems; the latter for being unassertive in the face of difficult challenges and obstructive politicians.  The article ends:

Months ago, the UN ought to have declared a “Level 3” emergency—the highest level, reserved for the likes of Syria and Yemen—to raise funds and mobilise personnel. Instead it pandered to politicians’ vanity and told humanitarian agencies that “the government would not tolerate it.” Many NGOs have been slow and ineffectual, too. Of the roughly 20 international non-profit organisations that together hand out 90% of the world’s aid, only half are present in Nigeria’s north-east, according to Toby Lanzer, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel. Nigeria’s own relief agencies are more used to dealing with floods than food crises, and are also accused of stealing supplies.

Faced with an emergency which it can no longer deny, the government has at last grown more ready to accept help. Donors are also beginning to pay more attention: by the end of this year, their allocations should be roughly double what they were in 2015. But the worst is not yet over. The numbers needing aid will grow as new towns open up: there are perhaps 750,000 hungry people in the north-east who currently cannot be reached at all. Some aid agencies think that most insecure parts of Borno are now in full-blown famine, which would suggest that 30% of people there are acutely malnourished.

To help humanitarians, Nigeria’s army must secure major roads and push forward into smaller towns, instead of sitting on its haunches. The UN says that discussions about proclaiming a top-level crisis are “really happening”, although it will probably make the call internally, rather than in public. Either way, it must not dally: eight months into the year, its campaign is only a third funded. Then it will need more (and better) partners, and require the snail-paced government to speed up its response. “What we are seeing is just the tip of the iceberg,” says one aid worker in Abuja. “It’s going to be one Bama after another as Borno opens up.”

This is a long way from sustainable development – and probably a long way from most global education.




Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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