Famine possible in parts of Boko Haram-hit Nigeria – experts
Some parts of northeast Nigeria that have been devastated by seven years of violence from the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency could be suffering from famine, according to experts monitoring the situation.
The US-based Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) said in a briefing note on its website Thursday that more than three million people in the region were in need of urgent assistance.
Borno state, which has been the worst hit by the conflict since 2009, was singled out for particular concern after Nigeria’s health ministry recently declared a “nutrition emergency”.
FEWS NET said that “information from recent rapid assessments, although limited and not statistically representative, also raises the possibility that a famine… could be occurring in the worst affected and less accessible pockets of the state”.
Famine is declared where at least 20 percent of an area’s population faces an extreme lack of food, at least 30 percent of children are acutely malnourished and the crude death rate exceeds 2/10,000 per day, it added.
Aid agencies have been increasingly warning about the dire humanitarian situation in Borno, which has borne the brunt of fighting between Boko Haram insurgents and government forces that has left at least 20,000 dead since 2009.
More than 2.6 million people have been made homeless, two million of them within Nigeria, fleeing to makeshift camps or being taken in by friends, families or distant relatives.
Last week, the UN children’s agency UNICEF said nearly 250,000 children under five could suffer from severe acute malnutrition in Borno alone this year, and 50,000 could die if nothing was done.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said last month at least 188 people died mainly from diarrhoea and malnutrition at a camp in Bama in the four weeks to June 22.
AFP was also told in early June at least 10 people were starving to death every day at a camp in Banki, near the Cameroon border, and that 376 people had died in three months.
FEWS NET, which is funded by USAID, also pinpointed Bama and Banki as “areas of concern”, and near the Sambisa Forest, where Nigerian troops have been conducting operations against Boko Haram since late April.
Northern Borno also remains largely inaccessible to aid agencies and high levels of acute and severe malnutrition have been recorded at several camps that locals have fled to, it added.
“Improved and sustained humanitarian access to IDP (internally displaced person) populations, as well as populations located in active conflict zones, is urgently needed,” it said.
“This improved access should be accompanied by a substantial increase in the provision of lifesaving food, health, nutrition, and WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) assistance above and beyond the assistance already provided by national and state emergency management agencies, NGO partners, and other stakeholders.”
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