Northeast Nigeria experiencing food crisis, Brethren response team continues food distributions




Nigerian women line up to receive food aid at a distribution organized by CCEPI, a partner organization in the Nigeria Crisis Response of the Church of the Brethren and Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).
Photo by Donna Parcell

Nigerian women line up to receive food aid at a distribution organized by CCEPI, a partner organization in the Nigeria Crisis Response of the Church of the Brethren and Ekklesiyar Yan'uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria).

UNICEF and other groups are warning of a serious and worsening humanitarian crisis in areas of northeast Nigeria where food and other assistance is not reaching people in need, in particular young children. The Associated Press has published an interview with UNICEF nutrition chief for Nigeria, Arjan de Wagt, who spoke of the likelihood of thousands of deaths of children to famine and associated diseases.

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Problem areas include camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) in and around the city of Maiduguri. The Nigeria Crisis Response of the Church of the Brethren and Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN, the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) through the work of the EYN Disaster Team and CCEPI, has been supplying food and household items to people around Maiduguri.

Another distribution is planned for mid-October, reports Nigeria Crisis Response coordinator Roxane Hill. “The EYN churches in Maiduguri have been housing and caring for hundreds to thousands of displaced persons,” she reports. “A medical team often accompanies the food distributions to provide limited health services to the IDPs. We also have had four trauma workshops in Maiduguri, and a training of workshop leaders is planned.”

The main Church of the Brethren and EYN response has been focused south of Maiduguri in southern Borno State and Adamawa State, notes Roy Winter, associate executive director of Global Mission and Service and Brethren Disaster Ministries, who recently returned from a visit to Nigeria. “This is good because few organizations are working in these areas, while many are working around Maiduguri,” he says. “Also, some parts of the Maiduguri area are not safe for NGOs, and some aid workers have been killed.”

Underlying causes

Brethren involved with the Nigeria Crisis Response report a variety of underlying causes for the food crisis. Winter says that one challenge in the Maiduguri area is simply numbers: “The Maiduguri area has around 1.5 million IDP, more than double the normal population.”

Hill reports that government corruption is a main reason food is not getting to people in IDP camps and to others in need. “There has been government money set aside in Nigeria for feeding the people in the northeast but due to corruption of the system, the needy people are not receiving the help,” she says. “We are confident that our EYN Disaster Team funds allocated for food are reaching the most vulnerable in the areas where we do the food distributions.”

Inflation is another reason for the crisis. “The price of commodities in the market is untouchable for many people,” writes EYN communications officer Zakariya Musa. “For instance, maize is sold at N21,000 [in Nigerian Nairi], four times that of last year’s price.”

He also notes that the government and large humanitarian NGOs (non-governmental organizations) may not be serving the many IDPs who are living with families in host communities. “They are hardly recognized by the government or NGOs in times of assistance.”

Members of a fellowship tour help with a distribution of aid  during a trip to Nigeria in August.
Photo by Donna Parcell

Members of a fellowship tour help with a distribution of aid during a trip to Nigeria in August.

The AP report notes additional reasons for the crisis including the inability of displaced people--who are mostly farmers--to plant their crops. Displaced people who have begun going back home have been returning to their land too late for this year’s planting season. Additionally, attacks by Boko Haram continue in rural and isolated areas, and prevent the distribution of food aid where the danger is too high.

Go to www.brethren.org/nigeriacrisis to find out about the work being done in Nigeria to distribute food and other aid through the Nigeria Crisis Response.

Find a blogpost by Zander Willoughby about his visit to Maiduguri and the experience of participating in trauma workshops there, at http://blog.brethren.org/2016/maiduguri-was-an-amazing-experience .

Alarming numbers

“As many as 75,000 children will die over the next year in famine-like conditions created by Boko Haram if donors don’t respond quickly, the UN Children’s Fund is warning,” wrote AP reporter Michelle Faul in the article published by ABC News on Sept. 29.

De Wagt told the AP that severe malnutrition is being found in 20 to 50 percent of children in pockets of northeast Nigeria. “Globally, you just don't see this. You have to go back to places like Somalia five years ago to see these kinds of levels,” he said.

Find the AP article at http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/75000-starve-death-nigeria-boko-haram-42440520 .

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