from Africa in Transition

Famine in Northeast Nigeria

September 21, 2016

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Sub-Saharan Africa

Climate Change

Nigeria

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Terrorism and Counterterrorism

Michelle Faul, writing for AP, reports on the horrific famine now underway in Northeast Nigeria. She quotes Doctors without Borders as characterizing the crisis as “catastrophic.” She also quotes an American midwife who runs a feeding center as saying “These are kids that basically have been hungry all their lives, and some are so far gone that they die here in the first 24 hours.”

UN Assistant Secretary General Toby Lanzer reports that some quarter of a million children “are severely malnourished.” He went on to say that two million people have not been contacted because of the security shortcomings, “and we can’t assess their situation.” Nobody really knows how many are internally displaced and dying.

Humanitarian and UN agencies have been sounding the alarm for months. It has been difficult for the western media to operate in northeast Nigeria because of security concerns and military discouragement. Nevertheless, it has carried the story despite these limitations.

Yet the famine has attracted remarkably little popular attention in the West, certainly far less than the Chibok school girl kidnapping. There has been no equivalent of #bringbackourgirls, publicized by Michelle Obama. The kidnapping and the famine are horrific tragedies. But the first involved 276 girls while the latter would appear to involve hundreds of thousands, mostly women and children. Perhaps the famine is so huge, and so impersonal, that it is difficult for outsiders to comprehend it.

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