Boko Haram and 10 years of humanitarian crises in North-East By Rabiu Sani

On Thursday July 25, 2019, dozens of Boko Haram insurgents attacked the Dalori Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp in the outskirt of Maiduguri. The insurgents killed two residents, looted food items and razed shops.

The insurgents had on July 18, abducted six aid workers of a non-governmental organisation, Action against Hunger, while travelling on Gubio-Damasak Road, in northern Borno.

The workers were in the area to provide humanitarian support to people affected by the decade-long conflict.

Dalori IDPs camp attack, coincided with the 10-year remembrance of the clash between security forces and Islamic extremist group, formally called “Yusufiyya Movement,” in Maiduguri metropolis on July 26, 2009.

Reports indicated that about 700 members of the group, including its spiritual leader, Mohammed Yusuf, were killed in the encounter.

The violent clashes of that day sowed the seed of Boko Haram insurgency, which engulfed major cities in northern Nigeria and spilled into Cameroun, Chad and Niger republics.

Boko Haram insurgency had led to one of the world’s biggest humanitarian crises, while the atrocities of the terrorists continued unabated on civilian population, in spite successes recorded by military counter insurgency operations.

The group attracted international attention in 2014, with the abduction of over 200 Chibok school girls, while thousands of women and children were abducted, maimed, raped or forcefully conscripted into foot soldiers and human bombs.

Also, Boko Haram fighters on March 1, 2018, attacked Rann town in Kala Balge Local Government Area of Borno, killed three male health aid workers providing life saving humanitarian assistance to thousands of internally displaced persons in the area.

The insurgents equally abducted three female aid workers: Saifura Hussaini Ahmed Khorsa, Hauwa Mohammed Liman and Alice Lokshah. Khorsa and Liman were executed by their captors in September 2018 and October 2018, respectively.

Similarly the insurgents abducted over 200 school girls at Dapchi in Yobe in 2018, though all the girls with the exception of Leah Sharibu were freed.

According to the United Nations statistics, the insurgency triggered displacement of about eight million people, while over 20, 000 others were killed in the past 10 years.

In 10 years, about two million persons are currently displaced with over 80 per cent of them seeking refuge in camps and host communities in Maiduguri, they are also in dire need of life saving assistance.

To most of the affected persons, life has not been the same, as the conflict exposed them to unbearable conditions such as homelessness, poverty, hunger, starvation and lack of protection.

One of the displaced persons, Ali Mai, said he escaped to Maiduguri and stayed in the camp, after the insurgents sacked his village in Marte Local Government Area of Borno.

Recounting his ordeal in the hands of the insurgents, Mai said that the terrorists killed his two children and razed his house.

The 55-year-old farmer added that he now stays in a makeshift tent with his wife and three daughters.

“I hope the conflict will end soon, so that I can go back home and resume my normal life.”

Another displaced person, Kaka Sanda, said the insurgency subjected them to difficult conditions and dashed their hopes of a better life.

“I lost my livelihood and left with nothing to live on, in spite the resilience, I still find it difficult to move on,” Sanda said.

Eric Batonon, the Director, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Nigeria, observed that people have continued to flee on weekly basis because of violence and insecurity in the North-East.

He said that many of the displaced persons settle along roadsides or on empty strips of land, with poor sanitation and no access to potable water.

Batonon said: “Ten years on, it is harrowing to see families still crowding into make-shift shelters with inadequate drainage systems.

“People in Nigeria need safe pathways back to their homes and much better living conditions.

“In the meantime, displacement sites are dangerous, chaotic and entirely unsuitable for children. It is critical to decongest these overcrowded sites, provide people that have been forced to flee with safe, dignified facilities and prevent another deadly cholera outbreak.”

He appealed to the global humanitarian community, local and national authorities to do much more to improve the lives of the displaced persons.

To address the humanitarian challenges, the UN in collaboration with International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs), humanitarian actors, Federal and Borno State Governments initiated various interventions to support and alleviate the sufferings of persons affected by the conflict.

The UN through its Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), launched  835 million US dollars fund in 2019 to fast track interventions in areas of food, shelter, healthcare services, education, water and sanitation, as well as livelihood, security and protection for the displaced persons.

A number of programmes are also being implemented to alleviate the sufferings and improve the lives of persons in need, in spite of challenges posed by inadequate funding, fresh displacements triggered by the ongoing conflict between the security forces and insurgents, as well as attacks on humanitarian workers.

Mr Edward Kallon, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, while commenting on recent abduction of aid workers in northern Borno, said that 7.1 million people still need humanitarian assistance.

Violence, insecurity and inaccessibility to remote areas of Borno continue to hamper response to urgent needs, he added.

“These acts of violence affect the very individuals, families, and communities that we support, and deprive vulnerable people of vital services. All parties should protect and facilitate the delivery of aid.

“In spite constraints, the humanitarian community remains committed to do its utmost to provide life-saving assistance and help the people in the North-East to rebuild their lives,” Kallo said.

Also, the Federal Government in a deliberate move to end the conflict and restore peace to the war-torn region,  initiated and implemented an amnesty programme, code named: “Operation Safe Corridor.”

Operation Safe Corridor is designed to encourage Boko Haram insurgents to surrender, undergo de-radicalisation and rehabilitation and facilitate their reintegration into the society.

Maj-Gen- Bamidele Shafa, the Coordinator of the programme, revealed that hundreds of the repentant insurgents have been reintegrated into the society in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states, in the past one year.

In the same vein, the Borno Government had initiated a comprehensive Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement programme, to facilitate resettlement of displaced persons and restoration of civil authorities in resettled communities.

More than 10, 000 residential homes, schools, classrooms, clinics, markets, water facilities, offices and other public infrastructure were constructed under the programme.

Batonon reiterated the need for donor countries to increase their support to families trying desperately to survive in one of the world’s most volatile region.

“The world needs to scale up the relief work and send a message of hope to the more than seven million people in need of humanitarian assistance in North-East Nigeria. After a decade of conflict, we need to show them that they have not been forgotten.

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