Geneva — The United Nations is urgently appealing for $250 million to provide life-saving food assistance for millions of people in northeast Nigeria, many of whom risk starving to death.
The U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator for Nigeria, Edward Kallon, says he has come to Geneva to warn the international community that Nigeria is at a crossroads and in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
He says 4.4 million people in northeast Nigeria's Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states are facing a looming catastrophic situation of food insecurity that eventually could result in a famine.
"Of these 4.4 million people, 775,000 are in critical needs of food assistance and risk death, and also further dispossession, if necessary action is not taken now," he said.
Kallon says malnutrition rates are rising in all three states in northeast Nigeria, reaching a particularly dangerous high of 13.6% in Yobe State. The U.N. Children's Fund reports severe acute malnutrition causes stunting, wasting, physical and mental impairment, and even death.
U.N. coordinator Kallon says these children urgently need special nutritional feeding to save their lives. However, providing aid in this volatile region is dangerous, and in some cases, impossible.
"Ongoing insecurity, which has resulted in further displacement of people and also compounded by the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19. And closely linked to the issues of insecurity [are] issues of access in areas that are controlled by the nonstate armed groups, where we have well over 800,000 people we cannot reach," he said.
Northeast Nigeria has been in almost constant turmoil since the Boko Haram insurgency began in 2009, and the situation has grown worse in recent months with a wave of mass kidnappings for ransom.
The United Nations reports 8.7 million people in northeast Nigeria need humanitarian aid. Earlier this year, the U.N. appealed for $1 billion to assist 6.4 million of the most vulnerable. To date, only 55% percent of the required funding has been received.