This open letter published in international media highlights a tragedy in the making in Nigeria – but if everyone acts now, hundreds of thousands of lives can be saved. We are also sharing this story from UNICEF which illustrates the depth of the problem – but also shows the way to a solution. Please share this with your friends to let them know.
To: The Editor
1 Southwark Bridge
Dear Sir, the tragedy now unfolding in north-east Nigeria is one of the world’s deadliest but least reported emergencies – and must be addressed when humanitarian emergency donors gather this week in Geneva.
Over 4.7 million people are in need of food assistance and some 400,000 children are at imminent risk of starvation. Almost 2 million people have been displaced. Most are living without adequate nutrition or clean water. And over half-a-million children have lost access to education. Many of the areas affected are inaccessible due to ongoing conflict and insecurity – so the final numbers of those in need are likely to be far higher.
The international aid response has been inadequate. Less than 40% of the humanitarian response plan for 2016 was funded – and the shortfall has cost lives. Part of the avoidable tragedy is that only a small group of donors have risen to the challenge. The UK, the US, and the European Union’s emergency fund account for most of the limited support provided so far. Donors conspicuous by their absence from the humanitarian response to NE Nigeria must now step up to the plate and do more. Estimates for 2017 put emergency financing requirements at US$1.2bn. These resources are needed to keep girls and boys alive: warnings from the UN and NGOs that business-as-usual will cost 200 child lives a day must be taken seriously.
Of course, the ultimate responsibility for the humanitarian response rests squarely with Nigerian authorities. President Buhari’s government has demonstrated serious intent. But a coordinated commitment between the Nigerian government, international partners, and UN agencies is only just coming together and too many partners have acted far too slowly. Decisive action now must be delivered in a way that both saves lives but also tackles the long-term causes of the crisis: a combination of extreme poverty, corruption, marginalization and inequality that has been exploited by Islamic extremists. That is why we urge donors and the Nigerian government to link the immediate humanitarian response to a recovery strategy that openly and accountably delivers the education, jobs, infrastructure required so we can save lives now and stops the crisis recurring in the future.
Aliko Dangote, President of the Dangote Group, Chairman of the Dangote Foundation
David Oyelowo OBE, award-winning British-Nigerian actor
Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International
Nachilala Nkombo, Africa Executive Director for the ONE Campaign (interim)
Kevin Watkins, CEO of Save the Children
Bono, co-founder of ONE and lead singer of U2
Mo Ibrahim, Founder of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation