49,000 children may die of starvation in northeast – Group

Emergency food aid and other investments are badly needed in northeast Nigeria to keep tens of thousands of children from starvation, disease and death warns anti-poverty group The ONE Campaign.

49,000 children may die of starvation in northeast - Group

A statement from the group signed by Juliet Vedral noted that as world leaders gather in New York USA for an emergency high-level meeting to address the food and malnutrition crisis in the area, Bono, the lead singer of U2 and the co-founder of The ONE Campaign, commented that, “the world is facing multiple crises right now that are in large part symptoms of an unholy trinity: the ‘three extremes’ of extreme ideology, extreme poverty and extreme climate.”

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Bono added that “many of these crises are not getting the attention they deserve, but in Borno state in northeastern Nigeria, where I visited just a few weeks ago, they are warning that 49,000 kids will die in the next few months if emergency food aid does not arrive. This is madness.”

Images he said “are coming out of the area of children on the brink of starvation – and world leaders are standing by, refusing to provide the funds needed to avert this disaster. Of the $739 million needed, the world is 75% short and these children’s lives are hanging in the balance.”

Bono called on leaders gathering in New York on Friday for the Lake Chad Emergency Appeal to “step-up and provide what is needed. We must address this immediate crisis, while also paving the pathway for longer-term solutions and interventions that can stop the endless cycle of conflict and poverty – and women and girls must be at the centre of this pathway forward.”

“It’s fantastic that the excellent Zainab Ahmed has just been appointed as Minister of Budget and National Planning to drive all-of-government delivery of humanitarian relief. To succeed she will need great partners from across Naija and beyond.”

Nigerian philanthropist and businessman Aliko Dangote, who recently hosted Bono in North East Nigeria, has also called for a ‘Marshall Plan’ scale of investment for the region to deal with the short term humanitarian crisis and the long term jobs crisis. He has contributed so far, through the Aliko Dangote Foundation, over $10 million of his own funds to provide food relief to Internally Displaced people (IDPs), and construction materials to help rebuilding efforts.

According to the press statement, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in August reported that, the overall revised Funding Requirements for the Global Humanitarian Response in Lake Chad Basin in 2016, amounts to $739 million to assist 6 million people across the four countries: $484 million for Nigeria, $98 million for Chad, $85 million for Cameroon and $72 million for Niger.

The ONE Campaign lamented that “the response in 2016 remains significantly underfunded with US$ 181 million of US$ 739 million, received as of mid-September. Allocations from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) in late 2015 and 2016 totaling US$ 54 million helped spearhead life-saving activities in the region. As a consequence, the unmet requirement for the remaining months of 2016 is $484 million for Nigeria, $72 million for Chad, $59 million for Cameroon and $44 million for Niger.”

It disclosed that “7 million people in Nigeria are in need of humanitarian assistance. Of these, 5.5 million are in urgent need of protection services (2.7 million for child protection and 1.5 million for Gender Based Violence).”

The situation is particularly dire in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states, where 4.4 million people are in urgent need of food assistance, with malnourishment affecting 2.5 million children under 5 years old as well as pregnant and lactating women.

The most recent number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) stands at 2.4 million, 1.9 million of which are in Adamawa, Borno, Gombe, and Yobe states.  1 million children do not have access to education, and 19,000 teachers are displaced.

Since January, donors in partnership with the government have reached 2.4 million people with emergency primary health care in North-East Nigeria through an integrated package of nutrition, health and WASH. The Nigerian Government launched a quick response, releasing N9.8 billion in funding within a week and pledging six rounds of vaccinations in the most affected areas over the coming months.

The Dangote Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have funded direct interventions with the Borno State Government focused on both immediate humanitarian assistance for IDPs and land, fertilizers and improved seeds so that returning communities can farm and support themselves.

De-mining efforts are also hugely important in order to make farmland safe for IDPs and returning citizens to cultivate. In the long-term, donors and the Nigerian government will have to rebuild the infrastructural, educational, agricultural and health capacity of the region so people can gain a sustainable income and feed themselves.

The World Bank estimated that US$6.7 billion will need to be invested in peace building, infrastructure, social services, and economic recovery to rebuild northeast Nigeria. The government and international community must urgently partner to rehabilitate and expand irrigation infrastructure, earth dams, wells, buildings and other agricultural needs that are critical to the resilience of northeast Nigeria.

All these efforts need careful planning and transparent budgets, monitoring and evaluation, especially by citizens receiving the services so they can ‘follow the money’ and help ensure funds get where they are most needed.



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