The Nigerian government has been urged to declare a state of humanitarian emergency in the conflict-ravaged northeastern region, to galvanize greater action to rescue millions of people from starvation.
This call was contained in a press statement made available to journalists this week, by the Centre for Information Technology and Development, CITAD, an NGO which has been implementing various programmes as part of the rebuilding and reconstruction efforts in the region, and was therefore worried about the grave situation in the rural parts of northeastern Nigeria.
The statement, which was signed by YZ Ya’u, CITAD’s executive director noted that whereas the government’s military offensive against the Boko Haram insurgents in the region had recorded significant successes and most of the territories earlier taken by the group, have been retaken, the development was daily revealing a crisis that had been “understated as thousands of people are pouring out with no food, medication and shelter”.
“They are daily starving to death. Over two Millions (2.5 million) have been displaced internally and are scattered across Nigeria. Most of them in impoverished host communities which further worsen their situation. These are different from these internally displaced persons who are in camp. They are the unaccounted IDPs who have no luxury of camps,” said the statement.
“They have been trapped for years in the bush and have no means of escaping. For over four years, these people could not farm, could not conduct business and have lost contact with other communities and the government. They have no homes, food or water to drink. Education had been disrupted. They are dying of both hunger and thirst as well as from drinking of unhealthy water out of desperation.”
The statement decried the fact that efforts aimed at addressing the needs of the internally displaced persons have been largely concentrated in the urban areas and relief materials were being channeled to official camps whereas those disconnected communities were even in greater need of such aid.
“Daily people are dying for want of food and water,” it said “As the rainy season sets, their conditions will even be worse by the lack of shelter, leaving them at the mercy of the elements that they have been exposed to for so long a time. Already there are reports of tens of people dying every day of hunger, thirst and lack of shelter especially in communities outside Maiduguri and the danger of mass starvation in these communities is so real.”
Amongst others, the statement categorically demanded of governments in Nigeria to “develop a comprehensive framework for humanitarian intervention in the northeast” asking the government to come up with “a policy on IDPs as currently the government has no policy on IDPs and has been using the NEMA act which has its focus on refugees from other countries rather than on IDPs.”
It further called on Nigeria to protect rural communities in its northeastern region whom it said, as soft target, have been bearing the brunt of the Boko Haram insurgency. It also called on the National Assembly, to expedite action and ensure the successful passage of the North East Development Commission bill so as to bring about “accountable mechanism and structure for the coordination of effort in rebuilding and reconstruction of the region.”