Over 3.5 million people are internally displaced in Nigeria as a result of crises, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) data has revealed.
Also, the insurgency in the northeast, mostly affecting Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (BAY) states, has led to the deaths of 37 aid workers since 2016, with additional 24 wounded and 34 kidnapped, according to the Aid Worker Security Database.
Speaking at the commemoration of the World Humanitarian Day, which was marked in Abuja by a road walk by stakeholders in the humanitarian sector, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Nasir Sani Gwarzo, noted that the essence of this year’s theme, #NoMatterWhat, encapsulates the profound essence of humanitarian action, being the core principle that drives humanitarians is their steadfast commitment to extending life-saving assistance, irrespective of an individual’s identity or geographical location.
He said: “Humanitarian workers stand as beacons of hope, traversing perilous paths to ensure aid reaches its intended recipients, regardless of the challenges they encounter. In recognising that crises recognise no boundaries, humanitarians, too, acknowledge no barriers in their mission to assist those in dire need—No Matter What.”
Gwarzo said: “It is paramount to acknowledge that frontline humanitarian workers are integral to the well-being of our nation. Their selfless endeavours amidst conflict zones and areas afflicted by natural disasters epitomise service to Nigeria. Their altruism not only ameliorates the conditions of those they assist but also contributes to the stability and prosperity of our nation. Regrettably, since 2016, the Aid Workers Security Database has recorded the tragic loss of 37 aid workers, with 24 wounded and 34 kidnapped in the North East of Nigeria. The current year has already witnessed the kidnapping of five aid workers in the North East, alongside similar incidents from various corners of our nation.
He said: “As we gather here today to mark World Humanitarian Day, it is vital to acknowledge that countless individuals are grappling with humanitarian crises across Nigeria. These crises stem from diverse causes, ranging from insurgency and banditry to clashes between farmers and herders, compounded by the impacts of climate change. According to the UNHCR Operating Data, a staggering 3,578,966 internally displaced persons were recorded as of June 2023 in the North East, North West, and North Central regions of Nigeria. Families, venerable and resilient, find themselves navigating dire circumstances, often contending with acute needs such as sustenance, shelter, water, protection, and livelihoods.
“In the face of these challenges, both the Government of Nigeria and the entire humanitarian community have redoubled their efforts to provide meaningful responses. These endeavours are a testament to the resolute commitment of aid workers who persistently deliver assistance under the most challenging circumstances, embodying the essence of this year’s World Humanitarian Day theme.”
On his part, the United Nations (UN) Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria, Mr. Matthias Schmale, said this year’s World Humanitarian Day honours all aid workers who step up each day to provide life-saving assistance to millions of people in north-east Nigeria and other parts of the country, noting that “despite daunting challenges, humanitarians work tirelessly to deliver assistance to those in need no matter who, no matter where, no matter what.”
He said: “On a number of occasions, I have seen for myself how hard humanitarians in north-east Nigeria are working in extremely difficult circumstances, often risking their lives and safety to support people in need.”
He added that: “Since 2016, 37 aid workers have been killed in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (BAY) states, according to the Aid Worker Security Database. Additionally, 24 have been wounded and 34 kidnapped, commending: “The courage, dedication and perseverance of national and international aid workers on the front line who deliver no matter what is deeply impressive.”
He revealed that the UN and its partners aim to assist six million people in north-east Nigeria through the 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), while stating that additional funding is urgently needed, even as he lamented that the plan appealed for USD$1.3 billion but is currently only 29 per cent funded.
Schmale lamented that the deteriorating food security and nutrition situation is one of the most alarming aspects of the crisis in the north-east, decrying that an estimated 4.3 million people are food insecure in the BAY states, according to the March 2023 Cadre Harmonisé assessment.
He noted that some two million children under five are likely to face acute malnutrition this year, adding that: “To urgently operationalize time-sensitive and critical activities, the United Nations and partners launched a $396 million Lean Season Multi-Sector Plan as part of the HRP. While partners have made significant progress, including reaching approximately 2.1 million people with food assistance, they are challenged by limited funding, as this prioritised plan is only 51 per cent funded.”
He noted, however, that despite facing tremendous difficulties, aid workers persist each day, standing shoulder to shoulder with affected communities. He said: “On this day, and every day, I salute the commitment and perseverance of humanitarian workers.”
He promised that: “No matter what, the humanitarian community will continue to work together in support of government and other key actors to save, protect, and improve lives.”