Mercy Corps: Starvation and Dire Unmet Need Revealed as Boko Haram Loses Ground in Nigeria

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“Worst humanitarian crisis in 20 years” is brought into sharp relief in Borno state.

Mercy Corps

“The world cannot sit by while innocent civilians who have survived unspeakable violence face acute hunger and the possibility of death.”

As aid organizations in northeast Nigeria gain access to areas previously under Boko Haram control, alarming suffering, need and devastation is becoming increasingly evident, according to the global organization Mercy Corps. In what a United Nations official is calling the “worst humanitarian crisis in 20 years,” an estimated 7 million people are in need of lifesaving aid in the worst affected areas in the northeast; of those, an estimated 2.5 million people are malnourished and lack access to food and safe drinking water.

“This grave, overlooked humanitarian crisis is unfolding on our watch,” says Iveta Ouvry, Mercy Corps Country Director in Nigeria. “The world cannot sit by while innocent civilians who have survived unspeakable violence face acute hunger and the possibility of death.”

Due to constrained access in the region, humanitarian organizations have until recently focused primarily on providing assistance to those living in and around Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state. Recent assessments – including those conducted by Mercy Corps – show that an estimated 800,000 people are living in burned villages and unstructured camps in 15 different locations across Borno, facing widespread malnutrition, little-to-no food or assistance, non-existent markets and no means to earn a living.

Mercy Corps is working swiftly to respond to the crisis in Damboa and Sabon Gari, two of the heavily impacted and most vulnerable communities. The organization is planning distributions of food and other items essential for survival, hygiene assistance and protection for vulnerable civilians, particularly women and children.

“In these two locations alone, we identified more than 100,000 people who are in immediate need of food and other help,” says Michael Muazu, a Mercy Corps humanitarian projects manager who conducted the assessment. “Women are especially vulnerable because many have little to no ability to move safely outside the camps or conduct normal daily activities such as preparing food and bathing.”

Mercy Corps has been working in Nigeria since 2012 both to address urgent humanitarian needs and implement long-term solutions that help individuals and communities build resilience, with a particular focus on empowering adolescent girls, teaching conflict-mitigation skills and connecting people to financial services.

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Katia Riddle
Mercy Corps
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