Millions caught on Nigeria’s hidden horror, warns Christian Aid
Hunger, terror and destitution are afflicting many millions of people in Nigeria in a huge crisis that remains largely hidden from the world, Christian Aid is warning.
The horror in the north-east of the country has unfolded since Boko Haram terrorists started attacking villages, looting and burning homes and crops and murdering and maiming people.
Some 14 million people now need help, of whom four million are in desperate need of food, according to international charities.
The scale of the crisis in north-east Nigeria is exceeded only by those in Syria, Yemen and South Sudan, yet to date it has received little international media coverage.
At least 1.8 million people have fled their homes and fields to escape the violence, most of whom are sharing the homes of others who have given them refuge.
The true picture is likely to be even worse than currently known, because large parts of the north-east remain cut off by ongoing fighting between Boko Haram and the Nigerian military.
“Families are clinging to life in utterly desperate situations,” said Nick Guttmann, head of Humanitarian work at Christian Aid, who visited Borno State in October.
“Some of the displaced people I met had homes no more than 30 miles from where they were living in dreadful conditions. They were hungry and just wanted to go home to plant crops and restart their lives – but were too frightened to do so.”
He added: “We heard horror stories about how villages were attacked by Boko Haram, with dozens of people killed and injured.
“Most of the houses were burnt down and families have been forced to share shelter, with 20-30 people sharing rooms in some areas. We asked people what they needed most and everyone told us: food.”
Christian Aid believes foreign journalists may struggle to get permission to visit the area in crisis. The lack of media coverage is, in turn, hindering humanitarian organisations’ ability to raise funds to buy food and other aid.
The charity is calling for humanitarian organisations to be allowed into the camps in which a minority of displaced people are living, to help ensure those people get aid in a timely and dignified way.
Christian Aid is currently helping people in three states: Borno, Adamawa and Gombe. It is focusing support on people who have fled their homes and are living in host communities, who are often forgotten in such crises. Christian Aid is helping both those who have fled and their hosts.
To date, it has reached more than 51,500 people, giving them emergency food supplies and help with clean water and items to help with sanitation and health.
“We desperately want to expand this life-saving work but are running out of money,” said Mr Guttmann.
Christian Aid has spent almost £1 million so far in north east Nigeria and has received funding from the Dutch Church aid agency ICCO, the Dutch government and the UK government’s START Fund.**