On July 12, UN humanitarian convoys uncovered emergency levels of acute malnutrition and famine-like conditions in Northeast Nigeria, particularly in camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) that are home to a quarter of a million people. A week earlier the governor of Borno State had declared a “nutrition emergency” in the state. These camps are in areas that are hard to reach, dangerous, and still under conflict, which is why, though we knew the situation was deteriorating, we didn’t know that the situation was this extreme.
Northeast Nigeria is part of a region of Africa called the Lake Chad Basin, which crosses the borders of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. Conflict, displacement and drought affect all of these bordering countries. In fact, there are almost 4 million people who are currently facing severe food insecurity across this region, and the lean season is just now commencing. Similar stresses exist across the wider Sahel region stretching from coast to coast across Africa just south of the Sahara.
Here at ONE, we know all too well what the F Word (famine) means; and the complex mix of violence, political instability, and extreme climate conditions that can cause it. History tells us that while drought may be inevitable, famine and extreme malnutrition are not, which is why we need the world to invest in the development of these regions and in the resilience of their people so that stability and good governance conquers violent extremism and hunger. We cannot look the other way while the people of the Lake Chad Basin suffer.
Right now, we must call on world leaders to support these governments, local communities, and organizations like the UN Children’s Fund, World Food Programme and the Dangote Foundation that are supporting on the ground efforts to provide emergency assistance in these incredibly difficult conditions. In parallel we must also consider a game changing long-term development strategy for this region that allows farmers, fishermen, herders and the most vulnerable the opportunities they need to thrive.
That means everything from electricity to wells, from corruption-free government to education, from jobs to security.