Nigeria, its neighbours, and the world are struggling to find an adequate response.
Failure to do so will condemn millions to more suffering, and raise the region’s vulnerability to violent extremism.
Donors meeting at the Oslo Humanitarian Conference on Nigeria and the Lake Chad region on Friday must seize the opportunity to act more effectively.
Up to 100,000 people may have died in the seven-year Boko Haram insurgency, according to Governor Kassim Shettima of Borno State in Nigeria’s northeast, the epicentre of the fighting. He says it has made orphans of 52,000 children.
More than 1.7 million people have been uprooted by the violence in Nigeria alone. The International Organization for Migration estimates that roughly 14 percent of the displaced have found shelter in government-run camps, most of which are ill-equipped and poorly administered.
But the vast majority survive on the benevolence of poor host communities, straining those limited resources still further.
Thousands of women and girls kidnapped by Boko Haram have suffered physical and psychological abuse, forced marriage, sexual slavery or compulsory labour. Some have been used as “suicide bombers”.
Boys, forcibly turned into combatants, have witnessed or committed gruesome atrocities and now battle their invisible trauma.
Although the region’s militaries have made great progress against Boko Haram since late 2015, and the insurgents have been weakened by both internal feuds and lean resources, continuing attacks on remote communities mean civilians are still at risk from the insurgency.
Local economies in ruinThe conflict has devastated the region’s infrastructure. In Borno, the violence has destroyed 30 percent of houses, and hundreds of schools, health centres, water sources, roads and bridges.
Food production has been hobbled by the flight of farmers, herders and fishermen. The Nigerian authorities’ decision to limit mobility and put several key trades, such as fuel marketing, under embargo as part of its counter-insurgency strategy has compounded the situation.
The exodus of large numbers of professionals, including school teachers and health care workers, has hollowed out social services.
The result is that roughly 11 million people across the four countries of the conflict-impacted Lake Chad region now need humanitarian assistance. In Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad, some 7.1 million people are facing severe food insecurity.In northeast Nigeria alone, more than five million are in food crisis. By June this year, 120,000 people could be facing famine in pockets of the region, according to the UN’s emergency aid coordination body, OCHA.
The international responseSince 2016, the humanitarian community has been struggling to strengthen its response, but inadequate international support has been a major drawback. Discover More