SEATTLE — On June 27, Nigerians received humanitarian aid amid the Boko Haram crisis. The U.N.’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) released $13 million in humanitarian aid for Nigeria, reaching 250,000 people in besieged areas in the northeast.
Humanitarian aid for Nigeria comes as a result of violence perpetrated by Boko Haram. Boko Haram is the world’s deadliest terrorist organization, located in the heart of the Sahel region of Africa. Since 2009, Boko Haram has terrorized the Lake Chad Basin region, affecting an estimated 30 million people in Nigeria and neighboring Chad and Niger.
The funds are set to be allocated to a number of different needs: seeds and tools for the upcoming planting season, psychological support and protection services for people who have suffered and witnessed abuses of human rights, and food and nutritional supplements.
According to the Norwegian Refugee Council, the humanitarian crisis in the Sahel region of Africa is one of the most neglected in the world. The region stretches across most of the continent and comprises of several of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries. Terrorist cells have used these factors to exploit and control the people.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that 23.5 million people in the region will suffer food shortages in 2016. This shortage is caused by a combination of horrendous weather, severe drought followed by devastating floods and the armed conflict surrounding Lake Chad.
Because of the unfavorable weather, people are fighting over fewer resources each year. The Sahel is home to several different ethnic, cultural and religious groups, including Muslim and Christian indigenous populations. Unfortunately, Boko Haram uses religious differences as a weapon to further divide the people.
Kashim Shettima, governor of the Borno state in Northeastern Nigeria, says that the root cause of this problem is extreme poverty. Shettima and other government officials, including President Muhammadu Buhari, assert that the Nigerian government needs to create jobs and engage the nation’s youth if they hope to end the madness.
The problem with reaching the nation’s youth in the Borno state is Boko Haram’s presence. Buhari, who was elected in 2015 (on the platform of stomping out government corruption and fighting Boko Haram), is taking steps to eliminate the threat posed by the terrorist group.
March 2016 marked progress in eradicating Boko Haram from the region. Nigerian Brigadier General Rabe Abubakar said that about 800 radicals had surrendered in the past three weeks, which allowed the military to rescue over 11,000 captives.
In April, a joint campaign of Nigerian and Cameroonian soldiers killed 22 Boko Haram fighters and arrested three commanders during a raid in the Lake Chad basin. The assault reportedly cleared six towns and several adjoining settlements and allowed 1,275 hostages to be set free.
In a June 22 press release, Buhari promised to seek out and deal with corruption, persecuting anyone found short-changing the Nigerian people. Consequently, more than 50 military officials have been fired on suspicion of stealing billions of dollars from the Nigerian government, funds that were intended to help fight Boko Haram.
However, military force alone will not end the humanitarian crisis in the Sahel. Financial aid and economic development are required to uproot terrorist ideology. CERF is providing unprecedented humanitarian aid for Nigerians who have endured years of suffering. However, more work is required. President Buhari plans to stimulate the manufacturing industry, in hopes of creating jobs for a nation with a 70 percent poverty rate.
The humanitarian crisis in Nigeria is far from resolved, but the government and people are fighting back against terrorism and corruption. That, coupled with much needed financial and humanitarian aid for Nigeria, provides hope for the residents of the northeast region.
– Aaron Parr