Nigeria: New pledges to avert famine, but access remains the key challenge
The humanitarian community gathered on 24 February 2017 at the Oslo Humanitarian Conference on Nigeria and the Lake Chad region. According to UNOCHA, more than 10 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in this area; 7 million experience food insecurity; 1.8 million are internally displaced; more than 1 200 schools are damaged; 3 million children need educational assistance and about 1 million houses were destroyed by Boko Haram. Co-hosted by Norway, Nigeria, Germany and the UN, the conference raised USD 672 million in additional pledges, but access and protection in Boko Haram controlled areas of Borno State remain key challenges.
The Oslo summit is a success for Norwegian diplomacy, which mobilised greater international involvement and increased funding for humanitarian efforts to address the severe food and nutrition crisis that is unfolding in north-eastern Nigeria and the wider Lake Chad region, one of the world’s most neglected humanitarian crises. Fourteen countries (mostly in Europe, but also including Japan and Korea) made additional pledges: USD 458 million for 2017 and USD 214 for 2018 and beyond, representing roughly a third of the USD 1.5 billion UN appeal for the Lake Chad region in 2017. “Our goal should be to provide stability and growth in a very troubled region,” declared Mr Børge Brende, the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs in his welcome address. “We must act now, jointly, to tackle this complex humanitarian crisis, avoid famine in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region and secure long-term development that builds resilience,” he declared.
“The crisis could not have come at a worse time for Nigeria,” said Nigeria’s Foreign minister, Geoffrey Onyeama. “We are experiencing severe fiscal constraints. The economy has plunged into a recession. The enormous resources that we are spending on the military operation against Boko Haram, and, of course, as an oil producing country, the catastrophic drop in the price of crude oil, has made it extremely difficult for us economically. In Nigeria, 26 million people have been affected by Boko Haram. Maiduguri alone hosts more displaced people than the whole of Europe. […] We humbly appeal for your assistance,” he declared.
The Nigerian approach to Boko Haram has gradually evolved. For a long time, Nigerian government representatives denied the depth of the crisis, partly blaming humanitarians for exaggerating the problem or for treating Nigeria as a cash cow. However, in Oslo, it now reconfirmed its commitment to tackle the crisis, together with its international partners, through its inter-ministerial taskforce in charge of facilitating co-ordination, its presidential North-East Initiative and economic development strategies aimed at gradually shifting the focus to reconstruction, resettlement of IDPs and support for the reestablishment of livelihoods. According to Mr Onyeama’s announcement, the Government of Nigeria has already allocated USD 1 billion of domestic resources (including USD 632 million from its federal budget).
Thanks to humanitarian emergency assistance, the food and nutrition situation in Adamawa and Yobe States has significantly improved. But the risk of famine in inaccessible areas of Borno State remains real. Beyond funding concerns, the most urgent challenge for the next three to four months (before the start of the lean season) will be to open access to the remaining seven local government areas (LGA) of Borno, about a third of its territory. During a civil society meeting that was organised ahead of the Oslo Conference, many humanitarian actors have witnessed first-hand the gravity of the situation and underscored that fact.
In his statement, Mr Laurent Bossard, Director of the Sahel and West Africa Club Secretariat (SWAC/OECD) insisted on the regional dimension of the crisis. “Our collective action should be guided by the cross-border dimension of the crisis and its implications. And this calls for regional solidarity in a coordinated manner to ensure the effectiveness and sustainability of our actions.”
In December 2016, the Food Crisis Prevention Network (RPCA) released a declaration to encourage international partners to develop more structural responses to this crisis. Conducted within the RPCA, the analysis of the Cadre harmonisé will provide updated figures on the food and nutrition situation and network members will monitor the impact of emergency responses at their next meeting on 10-12 April at the OECD headquarters in Paris. Many keynote speakers have underscored the need to think about the long-term, but these ideas must now be translated into action in 2017 and beyond.
Watch the livestream video: (Mr Bossard’s speech starts at minute 202)