Thousands of Nigerian women forced from their homes by Boko Haram jihadists held a protest to demand better conditions as UN Security Council envoys visited their camp, an AFP journalist saw. The demonstrators accused local authorities and aid agencies of exacerbating one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, which the UN says has left northeastern Nigeria on the brink of famine. They also accused local aid agencies of diverting assistance that should have gone to the 15,000 displaced people living in the Teachers Village camp near the flashpoint city of Maiduguri.
The women held their protest as 15 ambassadors from the UN’s top decision-making body visited the camp yesterday in northeastern Nigeria, seeking to draw global attention to the emergency affecting 21 million people in the Lake Chad region. The region straddles Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger. The UN envoys are visiting all four nations on their mission, which began Friday in Cameroon and will end today in Abuja.
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The humanitarian emergency afflicting the area was triggered by the Boko Haram insurgency, which erupted in Nigeria in 2009. Poor governance and climate change have also been powerful contributors to the crisis.
“We told the (UN) delegation about our long-standing grievances. There’s no food, there is nothing good here for us,” said 28-year-old Hajja Falmata, after she and several other displaced women met the envoys for half an hour.
“We were expelled from our homes by Boko Haram and we came to Maiduguri to seek refuge, but unfortunately we haven’t been well treated,” she added. Britain’s envoy to the UN, Matthew Rycroft, had said at the start of the mission to the region that the ambassadors’ aim was to “show that this will no longer be a neglected crisis”.
“You can’t tackle terrorism effectively without also tackling poverty, without also thinking about education and employment and protection of civilians and human rights and the rights in particular of women and girls who are disproportionately affected,” Rycroft said yesterday.
People forced by Boko Haram from their homes have frequently accused Nigerian authorities of corruption and poor aid management. The government has responded by launching several enquiries. In a statement yesterday, the UN said its visit to Nigeria was aimed at gathering “first-hand information on the various issues affecting the country…
“The delegation will use the mission to engage with Federal and State Authorities, (and) actors on the ground,” it added. The UN envoys’ visit began a week after UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres set off alarm bells over the threat of famine in northeast Nigeria, the epicentre of Boko Haram’s insurgency.
The UN is seeking USD 1.5 billion in funding for 2017 for the Lake Chad region — almost half of which is needed for northeast Nigeria, where 5.1 million people face acute food shortages.