A group of 15 International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs), on Saturday, said no fewer than six million people in West Africa are facing threat of severe hunger arising from insurgency.
According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), INGOs stated that the threat was as a result of the ongoing fight against Boko Haram activities in the sub-region.
The organisations responding to the humanitarian crisis in the sub-region, in a statement, appealed to donors to dig deep to stop the crisis from turning into a catastrophe.
The group said it urgently needed $143 million until the end of the year to provide life-saving support such as food, water, shelter and safety to people affected by the crisis.
“Over 65, 000 people are already living in famine, in pockets of North-East Nigeria, and over one million people are one step away from famine.
“In the countries of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon, there are 6.3 million people severely food insecure: Of these, 4.4 million people are in Nigeria,’’ the group said.
The organisations said that with 2.6 million people on the move, the Lake Chad Basin was Africa’s fastest growing displacement crisis and should be high on the agenda.
It said that in some areas of Borno State, the rate of acute malnutrition in children under five was similar to what was seen during the 2011 crisis in Somalia, as it was over 50 per cent.
The statement noted that the conflict and military operations to counter it had made farmland, rivers and lakes that people relied on for growing food and fishing off limits.
It said markets had also been closed and the people’s means of transportation such as motorbikes banned, cutting them from their means of living.
“What we are seeing is families teetering on the edge of famine.
“If organisations can’t reach communities in areas trapped by the conflict, we will be looking at a far greater disaster than we are currently facing.
“Many of those arriving in camps are already severely malnourished. We see families who have not eaten for days, many are begging for food.
“If the situation continues to deteriorate, many more people may die,” said Action Against Hunger Country Director, Yannick Pouchalan.
Also, Oxfam’s Lake Chad Basin’s Operational Lead, Lisa Bay, said: “Civilians have paid a high price for policies of cutting off Boko Haram’s food and supplies. “People should be able to fish, farm and sell their goods at markets.
“We have seen hugely generous communities welcome people who have fled their homes; but now they have nothing to give, they too are hungry and need access to aid.’’
Nigeria Country Director, International Rescue Committee, Sarah Ndikumana, said, “We have received little over $53 million, but there is a funding gap of nearly $90 million.`
“Without money, we simply can’t reach the people who need it the most with aid. The situation is critical with many lives hanging in the balance.
“We urge donors to dig deep to stop this crisis turning into a huge catastrophe.
“We cannot stand-by and watch thousands of people suffer and die when we can do something about it,” Ndikumana added.
Ms Jennifer Poidatz, Vice President of Catholic Relief Services and Humanitarian Response Department, said: “We need to learn from other protracted crises in the world, where short-term solutions simply don’t allow people who have fled from their homes to go back to their lives.
“Only robust funding over multiple years, of both international organisations and local and national organisations on the ground will ensure that we can adequately respond.
“We also need political leadership and action to address the root causes of the violence.
“As a result of the conflict, there have been alarming levels of sexual violence, human rights abuses and forced recruitment, even of young children.
`The security situation remains fragile and violence continues, making it difficult for the agencies to get assistance to all the people who need it,” Poidatz said.
The organisations said that without more money, they would be unable to reach the most vulnerable people even in areas that can be accessed.
Among the international organisations were Action Against Hunger, Action Aid, Christian Aid, Cooperazione International (COOPI), Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Danish Refugee Council.
Others were International Medical Corps, Intersos, International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps, Norweigan Refugee Council (NRC), Oxfam, Plan, Premiere Urgence International and Save The Children.