Nigeria to deliver aid by air in conflict-hit northeast


Nigeria’s government plans to deliver humanitarian aid supplies by air to people in remote communities in parts of the northeast that have been ravaged by the decade-long Islamist insurgency spearheaded by Boko Haram.

The insurgency, which since 2009 has killed around 35 000 people and forced two million people to flee their homes, has spawned one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. Seven million people need some form of aid, the United Nations estimates.

Humanitarian affairs minister Sadiya Umar Farouk on Sunday told reporters in Maiduguri, capital of the conflict-ravaged Borno state, that Nigerian Air Force helicopters and planes would be used to drop food supplies and items such as blankets.

“There has been an issue of inaccessible areas where humanitarian workers cannot reach the people,” she said at a news conference on Sunday. “Air drops are especially good for areas we cannot access by road,” she added.

Farouk did not provide details of the number of people authorities expected to reach or the frequency of deliveries. A spokesman for the ministry did not immediately respond to a phone call and text messages seeking further details.

Security forces in Nigeria, which plays a key role in maintaining stability in West Africa, have in recent months battled strikes by Islamists in the northeast.

Jihadist group Boko Haram was pushed off most of the land it controlled early in 2015 but the group continued to mount attacks in the northeast, as well as neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

A splinter faction that pledged allegiance to Islamic State in 2016 has become the dominant force in the region, mounting sustained attacks on the armed forces in the last few years.