North-eastern Nigeria “a humanitarian tragedy” – UN


An upsurge in violence in north-east Nigeria which was brought to global attention five years ago with the abduction by Boko Haram extremists of the Chibok schoolgirls, thousands of innocent civilians continue to flee prompting “grave concern” from the United Nations envoy there.

Clashes between Nigerian government forces and non-State armed groups on 26 December in Baga, north of state capital Maiduguri, triggered massive displacement, pushing civilians to converge on already congested camps or sites for internally displaced people (IDPs).

An attempted attack on 28 December in Monguno further exacerbated the situation, leading to more displacement.

“The impact of recent fighting on innocent civilians is devastating and has created a humanitarian tragedy,” UN humanitarian co-ordinator Edward Kallon said after visiting Monguno and Teachers Village camp for internally displaced people in Maiduguri.

“It is heart wrenching to see so many people living in congested camps or sleeping outside with no shelter,” he said.

“The United Nations is concerned about the impact violence in north-east Nigeria, especially in Borno State, is having on civilians.”

In recent weeks, more than 30,000 IDPs arrived in Maiduguri, mainly from Baga – often after arduous journeys with children.

Of these, an estimated 20,000 IDPs has stretched capacity beyond the limit in Teachers Village camp in Maiduguri.

It is still unclear how many people are taking refuge in Monguno; thousands are in need of humanitarian assistance, notably shelter, food, water and sanitation.

About 260 aid workers have been withdrawn from the local government areas of Monguno, Kala/Balge and Kukawa, affected by conflict since November. This represents the largest withdrawal of aid workers since the international humanitarian response was scaled up in 2016, hindering delivery of vital aid to thousands.

Aid workers have started returning to respond, the lack of a secure operating environment continues to prevent normal humanitarian activities.