SEATTLE, Washington — The roots of poverty in Nigeria are highly complex, due to the country’s unique historical challenges. Around 40% of the population lives in poverty, rendering it one of the most severe humanitarian crises in the world. Since Nigeria’s humanitarian aid problem continues to worsen, the prevalence of international aid in the region is now increasing.
5 Things to Know About Nigeria’s Humanitarian Aid Problem
Boko Haram: One of the largest Islamist militant groups in West Africa Boko Haram continues to pose serious humanitarian and governmental challenges. Today, the violence is largely contained to Northeast Nigeria, but the social, economic and political repercussions are pervasive.
Displacement: According to UNHCR, there are roughly 2.8 million internally displaced people (IDPs) in Nigeria. The number will likely rise as Boko Haram continues to launch deadly attacks in several northeastern provinces. As of July 31, there are an estimated 293,000 Nigerian refugees living in neighboring countries. This statistic has increased sharply in recent months.
Food insecurity: Approximately 7 million people are projected to be food insecure in Nigeria during the 2020 lean season. This is especially devastating for the country’s IDPs, many of whom are women and children. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people in urgent need of humanitarian aid in Nigeria climbed from 7.9 to 10.6 million.
Distrust of INGOs: Although there are more than 70 international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) active in Northeastern Nigeria, there is a historical mistrust of outside actors. The federal government briefly suspended UNICEF in 2018 for allegedly training spies for Boko Haram. These actions sowed further mistrust and damaged the credibility of INGOs, jeopardizing humanitarian workers’ lives and inhibiting the distribution of life-saving assistance.
COVID-19: The pandemic limits critical humanitarian aid in Nigeria, but organizations continue to adapt their response. Official records have reported several cases of COVID-19 in displacement camps. These camps in the Northeast are overcrowded, putting vulnerable people at even greater risk of infection and posing serious consequences for maintaining access to life-saving resources. While INGOs and the Nigerian government have yet to fully understand the short- and long-term consequences in Northeast Nigeria, the threat level is ultimately very high.
Overall, the need for innovative humanitarian solutions in the region has become increasingly urgent. International actors have taken to funding key community-based initiatives in response. For example, ActionAid Nigeria has partnered with local services to increase support for women’s shelters, following a rise in domestic violence cases during the pandemic.
The needs and rights of the Nigerian populace, particularly for women and children, must be central when delivering aid. In the midst of the pandemic, international stakeholders can also invest in healthcare to reduce the risk of poverty. This would be especially impactful in high-conflict areas where infrastructure has been destroyed. Most importantly, consistent financial support and involvement by aid organizations will drive positive outcomes for combatting Nigeria’s humanitarian aid problem.
– Rachel Moloney