UN Says Mass Deaths From Starvation Looms In Nigeria, Others •Requests $4.4bn •Critics Demand Transparency

By on April 11, 2017


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IDPs Camp
IDPs Camp

The picture painted this Tuesday is a familiar one, the United Nations warned today that “the risk of mass deaths from starvation … is growing” among people in conflict and drought-hit areas of the Horn of Africa, Yemen and Nigeria.Due to drought and a “severe” funding shortfall “an avoidable humanitarian crisis … is fast becoming an inevitability.” The UN refugee agency spokesman Adrian Edwards made this much known.

Violent conflicts and increasing displacement have deepened food shortages in many places, he said, warning that the dangerous combination of factors risked making the current crisis worse than the 2011 drought in the Horn of Africa that killed more than 260,000 people.

“A repeat must be avoided at all costs,” he told reporters in Geneva, pointing out that UNHCR’s operations in famine-hit Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen were funded at between just three and 11 percent. As a whole, the United Nations has requested $4.4 billion to address the famine crisis in the four countries, but has so far received only $984 million, or 21 percent, UN humanitarian agency spokesman Jens Laerke said.

“It is now urgent that the shortfalls be addressed,” Edwards said, pointing out that some 20 million people across the affected countries are in areas affected by drought, including 4.2 million refugees.

In conflict-ravaged South Sudan, where the UN already warned in February that fighting, insecurity, lack of access to aid and the collapsing economy had left 100,000 people facing starvation, “a further one million people are now on the brink of famine,” Edwards said.

And in Yemen, which is already experiencing the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, 17 million people, or around 60 percent of the war-torn country’s population, is going hungry.In December 2016, the UN had projected concerning Nigeria that a billion dollars is needed to provide aid for victims of Boko Haram jihadists in Nigeria’s restive northeast in 2017, calling the conflict “the largest crisis in Africa.”

The UN Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator, Peter Lundberg in his explanation stressed that, “The narrative on this humanitarian crisis can no longer be ignored and we are appealing to the international community to help us prevent the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians over the coming 12 months.

“This is the largest crisis on the African continent and I am confident that with the support of the international community and the private sector, we can begin to bring hope to the people of the northeast.” 

The UN said the humanitarian response plan would address the needs of almost seven million people, in dire need of nutrition, food, shelter, healthcare and education.

“A projected 5.1 million people will face serious food shortages as the conflict and risk of unexploded improvised devices prevented farmers planting for a third year in a row, causing a major food crisis.”

Back then, Nigeria’s junior budget minister Zainab Ahmed was quoted as saying the government would continue to demonstrate strong commitment to work with the international humanitarian community on the crisis.

The scale of humanitarian suffering became more apparent after Nigerian troops recaptured swathes of territory held by Boko Haram since 2015.

But considering the huge resources available to UNICEF and other UN agencies operating in region, and especially in Borno, the popular opinion is that they can do better.

For instance, a UNICEF fact sheet seen by icirnigeria.org indicates that the organisation spent $16 million on treatment of 153,936 children in its therapeutic feeding centres in the three states between January and November 2016 alone.

This is far less than half of the $42 million it requested for the feeding programme. So, it means that $26 was spent on implementation while only $16 went into the feeding itself.Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, who is one of the strongest critics of UNICEF and other UN agencies, once told a delegation that UNICEF and other UN agencies “will construct five toilets in Gwoza and fly in helicopters more than seven times to inspect the toilets,” thereby spending more money on inspection than on the project.

Also, this January, Shettima lambasted international agencies and NGOs, including UNICEF, for failing to justify the huge funds they claim to have expended on victims of the Boko Haram insurgency in the North east.

The governor alleged that the NGOs use most of the funds released to them for the displaced persons to service their overheads and personnel costs. He claimed that out of the 126 NGOs that were working in Borno State, only seven or eight were actually providing humanitarian services to the displaced persons.

“Some of the United Nations agencies are doing their best in their own way of doing things; but to me I am not satisfied. The huge chunk of what they are budgeting for Borno goes to service their overheads.” Governor Shettima lamented.

There are also complaints that UN agencies are not transparent enough in their finances. But if the UN agencies are not transparent enough, some NGOs are worse and seem only interested in profiting from the misery of displaced persons.

Accusing fingers have been pointed at Empower 54 Project Initiatives, an NGO that belongs to Princess Modupe Ozolua, a Nigerian-American entrepreneur.It was learnt that Ozolua went to Maiduguri in June last year and visited Bama to see displaced persons. She helped bring public attention to the plight of malnourished children in camps who were dying daily.

With the help of the state government and the military, the children and their families were safely evacuated to Maiduguri for treatment. She, subsequently, wrote a letter to Govenor Shettima after her Bama experience, informing the governor that she intended to raise funds to support IDPs in the state.

The governor gave his support.She subsequently organised the fund-raising in Atlanta, the United States of America, in August last year. She also posted pictures she took with malnourished children in Borno on her Facebook page and solicited financial support to “Save a malnourished child, feed a hungry family, sponsor a life-changing surgery, send a child to school and empower women…”

But since August last year when she had a successful fund-raising in Atlanta and other cities, she did not return to Borno or communicate to the Borno State Government. But on February 5, she returned to Maiduguri with a container of relief items, which include drugs and clothes for distribution to displaced persons in the state. She said the relief items were worth $3 million, adding that the goal of her organisation was to distribute six more of such containers worth $18 million in other African countries.

The question many people in Borno State are asking is how much has she raised for the state? And how much has she spent on the IDPs? All efforts to get Ozolua to provide answers to these questions proved futile as she did not respond to emails sent to her.

When contacted through her Facebook page, she asked that the questionnaire be sent again to another email address. The questionnaire was sent again. But she still failed to respond two weeks after it was sent to her.

There are many other NGOs that just come with relief materials to the IDPs camps. One of these, it was gathered, is Oxfam, an international confederation of 18 NGOs based in Oxford, United Kingdom. The NGO is not as visible as expected, considering the resources available to it.

Oxfam’s humanitarian emergency response includes provision of clean water, food, sanitation and protection. While it has no doubt intervened in the North East, its impact is minimal and limited to a few IDPs camps.

One of the aid agencies that could have done more for insurgency – ridden North East is the United States Agency for International Development, USAID. With an annual budget of over $27.2 billion, intervening in a more impactful way could have reduced significantly the slide towards humanitarian tragedy in the region.

Although its mandate in foreign countries include helping societies prevent and recover from conflicts and providing humanitarian assistance, it has fallen far short of these in the North East. USAID has concentrated more on building capacities for the region than on helping to arrest humanitarian crisis brought upon the region by six years of Boko Haram insurgency. It has spent huge resources organising capacity building conferences and workshops for government institutions, civil societies, political parties and faith-based organisations in Abuja than on providing assistance to the people in dire need of it.

As recently as last October, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UNOCHA, said about 9.2 million people, including women and children, were in critical conditions and in dire need of food and medical assistance in the Lake Chad Basin – Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger – as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency.

The UN agency said about $739 million will be needed to “increase lifesaving support to the millions of people affected by the crisis” across the region, “of which $197 million has already been received.” The UN urged donor agencies and philanthropists to redeem their pledges of assistance in order to save the lives of the people living in this highly vulnerable area.

Source cattnews

Posted 11/04/2017 8:38:28 PM




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