The security situation in south-eastern Niger remains a challenge for humanitarian actors notwithstanding a drop in the number of attacks by Boko Haram in the last three months. Ongoing military operations by the Nigerien Defense Forces and the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) and other security measures are restricting humanitarian access to areas along the Komadougou River. As of 31 March, more than 242, 000 people were displaced in the Diffa region according to the regional authorities. There have been some reports of people returning to their home community in Bosso, Niger, and Damassack, Nigeria, while new arrivals have also taken place in El Hadj Mainari through the entry point of Dewa village on the Niger side.
Years of insurgency and counterinsurgency operations have resulted in the displacement of approximately 1.9 million people and created a food and nutrition crisis in Nigeria’s northeast. The worst-affected local government areas of northeast Nigeria are facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) food security conditions and Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) levels above emergency threshold.
Areas of Borno with limited access, such as Konduga, Bama, KalaBalge, Mafa, Ngala, Dikwa, and Marte, have between 39,000 and 250,000 people in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) to Famine (IPC Phase 5) food security conditions, according to the Cadre Harmonisé (Cadre Harmonisé 10/03/2017).
Agricultural production has fallen, and raids and suicide bombings have destroyed vital infrastructure. Security measures impacting food security include a ban on the cultivation of tall crops, road closures, controls on fertiliser and fuels, and curfews. The scale of population movement is worsening food security: returning refugees and IDPs are adding to the strain on both camps and host communities.
Anticipated Scope and Scale
The crisis is expected to worsen – 50,000 people will be in Famine from June to August if the situation is not remedied. The lean season is predicted to start earlier in April-May instead of in July, therefore lasting longer than usual, and farmers would still be unable to cultivate land. With the rainy season expected to begin in May/June, many access roads will be cut off due to flooding.
Priorities for humanitarian intervention
Food: 1,099,000 people, or 19% of the population in Borno state, are in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and 38,000 in Famine (IPC Phase 5) levels of food insecurity. In Adamawa 197,000 people are in Emergency food insecurity and 5,800 in Famine. In Yobe 88,000 are in Emergency.
Nutrition: GAM prevalence is 11.4%, 11.3%, and 5.6% in Yobe, Borno, and Adamawa states, respectively. The situation is thought to be worse in inaccessible areas.
Livelihoods: Many livelihoods have been disrupted by the crisis. Farming has particularly been affected as farmers are unable to access and cultivate their farmlands due to security threats.
Protection: Extreme negative coping strategies have been adopted. The risk of forced/early marriage is high. Women and girls trade sex for food and other essential needs.
Over 80% of Borno is considered high or very high risk for international humanitarian partners to operate in. Movement is usually restricted to LGA headquarters, as military clearance operations are still ongoing in many communities.
Administrative restrictions on visas and customs clearance for humanitarian personnel and supplies are delaying response.
Three humanitarian corridors identified in Southern Chad for the potential voluntary return of CAR refugees not yet functional.
Potential refugees for the Chadian national exam-Baccalaureate for 2016/2017 increased by 34%. Women make up 60% of candidates.
Preliminary results of the Survey on the intentions of return of Sudanese refugees in Eastern Chad shows that less than 3% are willing to repatriate in 2017.
The IOM Displacement Tracking Matrix Round XV highlights that 1,832,743 IDPs (326,010 households) remain displaced in the six North-East affected states of Nigeria. Population movements in Borno State (IDPs leaving Maiduguri Metropolitan Council (MMC) to other LGAs and returnees coming from Niger and Cameroon) indicate a rapid rise in numbers of people moving to the liberated areas.
The reporting period has been characterized by influx of new IDPs in most outer LGAs areas of Borno State such as Dikwa, Ngala, Bama, Gwoza and Konduga as indicated by the recent IOM DTM Emergency Tracking Tool (ETT) data.
The period under review has also recorded incidents of fire in Monguno GSS and Konduga IDP camp, affecting about 4,000 IDPs. Partners responded to other incidents by rapidly mobilizing essential WASH supplies from the existing contingency stock as well as non-food items (NFI) and shelters.
Due to security and access constraints, however monitoring, coaching and joint supervision continue to face challenges which affect the quality of services in many areas.
Critical funding gap is another factor that constrains operational capacity. The current funding level is 9.5 per cent (99.8 million mobilised against 1.1 billion requirements), as the US $458 million pledge made following the Oslo conference in February has not yet been translated. Timely disbursement is much needed to reduce the critical gap and to scale up the response humanitarian crises in the North-East.
By Lily Partland, Save the Children Australia
In the remote town of Akobo, South Sudan, all seems calm and peaceful in the early afternoon, but this is a place full of suffering.
At Save the Children’s stabilisation centre, dozens of women sit on woven bamboo mats and plastic chairs waiting to have their babies and children assessed or treated for malnutrition.
Makwach*, with her hair cropped close, has sad eyes that crease into a small smile when I introduce myself.
She has five children, including eight-month-old twin girls called Nyalith* and Nyandeng*, who she nurses in her lap as they fitfully doze. Both are being treated for severe malnutrition.
“When I was pregnant, there was not enough food,” she tells me through an interpreter. “I tried to breastfeed but there was nothing.”
Makwach’s daughters have been in treatment for three weeks, eating a high nutrient peanut paste. They are gaining weight and their health is improving. But she says, “For my other children, there is no food.”
Makwach says sometimes they eat leaves to survive, she can collect and sell firewood for a little money, and if they’re lucky they catch fish in the river.
Getting food has been a problem since the civil conflict escalated about four years ago. Unpredictable outbreaks of fighting in the region have made agricultural produce unreliable and one favoured method of warfare – cattle raiding – has left many without their only assets.
“Before, there were cattle and goats and we used to grow vegetables in a little garden. Now there are no cattle and no goats – they were all taken.”
Makwach tells me she is losing hope. “My children are suffering. It is a very bad future, because there is nothing to feed them.”
Three days of walking
Nearby sits 19-year-old Nyaliak* with her only son, Chuol*.
She was married at the age of 15 – not at all unusual in this region – but her husband left to fight with an armed group a few years ago and she hasn’t seen him since.
She comes from a village in the region but fled – alone with her son – to the town of Waat because of fighting.
She then fled to Akobo to stay with relatives and get help for her sick child. All up, she walked for three days to make it here to relative safety.
Pneumonia, malaria and malnutrition
Nyaliak’s son is very unwell. Chuol was treated for pneumonia, and is now being treated for malaria. he is also severely malnourished, and has lost the use of his legs. “Two things are not making me happy. My husband is not here with me and my child is sick,” she says, her eyes downcast.
“When I arrived here there was no food but yesterday they gave out rations for displaced people.” They were given sorghum, lentils and oil.
One step away from famine
Under the system widely used to classify food insecurity, the region is just one step away from famine.
Save the Children and other NGOs are doing all they can to prevent places like this from sliding into famine and to save the lives of children like Chuol, Nyalith and Nyandeng.
But nutrition workers here at Akobo are seeing this crisis escalate. Last month, 348 children were treated here for severe acute malnutrition, with 142 new cases recorded.
Time is running out
The coming rains will bring with them the threat of waterborne diseases and other illnesses. These may prove too much for the compromised immune systems of the weakest – babies and children already suffering from illness and malnutrition.
Time is running out but with enough support, we can still stop this famine in its tracks and save the lives of the most vulnerable.
As delivered by Ms Reena Ghelani, Deputy Director, OCHA Coordination and Response Division
His Excellency, Mr Peter Thomson, President of the General Assembly and Mr Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delivering this statement on behalf of the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mr. Stephen O’Brien.
Thank you for this opportunity to brief on the grave situation facing millions of people in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and north-east Nigeria. The numbers are staggering. As his Excellency outlined, more than 20 million people face famine or the risk of famine across the four countries. Some 1.4 million children are severely malnourished. Over 21 million people lack sufficient access to health care, at a time when three out of the four countries are experiencing cholera outbreaks. And more than 20 million people lack clean water and sanitation. Around eighty per cent of affected populations live in rural areas and a combination of hunger and conflict is forcing people to be displaced, both internally and as refugees. Those who were forced from their homes in past years by conflict are being hit particularly hard as a consequence of this current crisis.
The crises in these four countries are protracted and complex – and the impacts will be felt for years.
In South Sudan, years of appalling violence and conflict have left over 5 million people in need of urgent food assistance, an estimated 100,000 of whom are, already, facing famine. More than 1 million more are on the brink of famine. Over a quarter of a million children are suffering severe acute malnutrition. Three years of conflict has displaced some 3.5 million people, disrupted agricultural production of farmers, and crippled the economy. Half of the country’s water points have been damaged or destroyed, and at least 5,000 people have contracted cholera in an outbreak that began in June of last year.
In Somalia close to 3 million people cannot meet their daily food needs. Some over 500,000 people have fled their homes this year alone in search of food, water, and safety. Acute Watery Diarrhea and Cholera has spread to 11 of 18 regions of the country, with over 18,000 cases reported just this year. Women are particularly impacted, sometimes forced to walk many kilometres to fetch water. In Somalia women will walk 25 to 50 kilometres on average to fetch water, exposing them to violence and sexual abuse.
Yemen is facing the largest food security crisis in the world with almost 7 million people requiring immediate life-saving assistance and at least 462,000 children suffering severe acute malnutrition. Conflict has damaged and obstructed water networks and only 45 per cent of the country’s health facilities are functioning.
And in north-east Nigeria, violence has left millions displaced and some 4.7 million people in severe food insecurity – at least 450,000 of them are children suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
This is the impact of hunger and famine: communities broken, families torn apart, and preventable deaths of men women and children from disease. Famine is about much more than food insecurity. It is about compounding vulnerabilities that leave millions of people without basic human dignity, without hope for the future. It leaves children stunted and out of school. Development gains are stalled or reversed. People abandon their homes, and are robbed of their livelihoods, exacerbating instability across entire regions.
Seven weeks ago, the Secretary-General called on the international community to take urgent action to prevent this looming catastrophe. He urged all actors to work together to save lives, reduce underlying vulnerabilities, and build long-term resilience to future shocks.
Humanitarian partners acted early. Humanitarian response plans and action for the year, in each of the four countries, had already incorporated the massive food and other key responses that would be required for the situation we face today. Large-scale operations are underway, in extremely challenging and dangerous environments.
Since February, UN agencies and their partners have reached over 1.2 million people in South Sudan, more than 330,000 people of them in the famine-affected or at-risk counties of Unity State. In Yemen, humanitarian partners have reached 5.8 million people with food and other assistance so far this year.
In Somalia, partners and the UN doubled our response from February to March, to reach 1.8 million suffering people with food aid and nearly 500,000 with livelihood support. Around 1.8 million people are targeted for assistance this month in Nigeria alone, where so far this year a quarter of a million people have been reached with emergency water and sanitation assistance, 3.8 million children vaccinated against measles, and over 900,000 people provided basic health services.
The humanitarian assistance being delivered on the ground is saving lives and livelihoods. But it is not enough.
While all four countries have unique contexts, they share a common component. That is of protracted conflict. Likewise, all four countries are marked by severe access constraints due to insecurity and some have costly bureaucratic impediments that impede the reach of life saving aid, and exacerbate the suffering of civilians.
In Somalia almost one third of the people who need help the most are living in areas under control of Al Shabaab where access is extremely limited. There are indications now that Al Shabaab is using this crisis as part of a “hearts and minds” campaign, to use the situation to feed people. South Sudan remains one of the most dangerous places in the world to be an aid worker – more than 12 humanitarian personnel have been killed this year alone. Here, conflict severely challenges humanitarian presence, forcing lengthy relocations of aid workers, including from famine-affected counties, and affecting directly millions of vulnerable South Sudanese people in need of humanitarian assistance.
In north-eastern Nigeria, where Boko Haram continues to launch attacks on military and civilian targets, an estimated 700,000 people remain beyond reach for humanitarian actors, living in what are feared to be desperate conditions. And in Yemen, where conflict and insecurity and strain on the economy are driving the crisis, restrictions on the movement of goods into non-Government-controlled ports are at times delayed.
Humanitarian operations in these four countries require more than US$5.6 billion this year as his Excellency has announced and we need this funding now. In order to be ahead of the game we need this funding now – especially for the priority sectors to respond and prevent famine in the four critical sectors of Food Security, Nutrition, Water and Sanitation, and Health. Following the Secretary-General’s call to action on Famine response and prevention, donors have generously committed approximately 21 per cent of the $4.4 billion required. I thank donors for these critically needed funds to save lives, but highlight that they remain less than a quarter of the amount needed to avert a catastrophe.
We thank the President of the General Assembly to have provided this dialogue today.
While humanitarians will continue to deliver and scale up where they are able, four things are required in order to effectively reverse these crises:
First, more political will is required to end the conflicts that have caused these crises. Without an end to conflict, violence, and violations of international humanitarian law, humanitarian conditions – including severe food insecurity – will continue to deteriorate. Hunger and suffering will increase.
Likewise in order for assistance to reach those who need it most there must be unhindered and sustained humanitarian access. All parties to conflict must abide by international humanitarian law and allow aid workers access to vulnerable people in need of support. More pressure needs to be exerted on these parties to abide by those obligations.
Thirdly, we urgently need further funding to back a robust humanitarian response. This includes funding from traditional and emerging donors, including development banks and the private sector. The upcoming ministerial-level pledging conference for Yemen, co-chaired by the Secretary-General and the Foreign Ministers of Switzerland and Sweden, provides an opportunity for countries to come together and unite behind humanitarian efforts in Yemen – for which less than 10 per cent of required funds have been received to date.
Finally, the severity and the scale of these crises call for a more comprehensive approach, a new way of working. The immediate goal of the humanitarian response is to save lives, but humanitarian response alone is not enough to reduce needs and address the risk and vulnerability that drive those needs. Longer-term action is needed now to help reduce needs and vulnerability and build resilience, preventing future catastrophes. To do this requires more risk tolerance, earlier and sustained development engagement, and more flexible and context-adaptable programming. Crucially, a broader range of financing options, better aligning short- and long-term funding, and working with a diversity of partners will be needed. We must now make tangible progress on this New Way of Working by scaling up the programmes required to reach our collective outcomes of reducing need, risk and vulnerability of those left behind as a result of conflict and crises.
This weekly bulletin focuses on selected acute public health emergencies occurring in the WHO African region. WHO AFRO is currently monitoring 39 events: two Grade 3, six Grade 2, two Grade 1, and 29 ungraded events.
This week, one new event has been reported: an outbreak of influenza-like illness in Senegal.
The bulletin also focuses on key ongoing events in the region, including the two grade 3 humanitarian crises in Nigeria and South Sudan as well as outbreaks of acute watery diarrhea /cholera in Ethiopia, malaria in Burundi, and meningitis in Nigeria, Niger and Togo.
For each of these events, a brief description followed by public health measures implemented and an interpretation of the situation is provided.
A table is provided at the end of the bulletin with information on all public health events currently being monitored in the region.
Major challenges to be addressed include:
Reluctance of some countries to share data and information on outbreaks and other public health emergencies.
The security challenges that impede access to populations in need of humanitarian assistance and deter aid workers from providing life-saving interventions, especially targeting vulnerable and hard to reach populations.
-Ongoing need for strong financial backing from donor partners to humanitarian actors, given the increasing complexity and scale of public health emergencies.