from Africa in Transition

International Inaction and Famine in the Lake Chad Basin

April 28, 2017

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Peter Lundberg, United Nations (UN) Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria, stated on April 25 that the aid organizations working in northeast Nigeria will run out of cash by June if pledges made by the international donors at a February  conference in Oslo are not paid. The UN Office for the Coordinaton for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that 4.7 million people in Nigeria are in need of food for survival, many of whom are victims of Boko Haram. It also projects that some seven million people are in need of multiple forms of humanitarian assistance. The UN estimates that 43,800 are already experiencing famine. Currently the World Food Programme (WFP) is providing rations to 1.3 million people a month, according to Lundberg. Separate from Lundberg’s comments, the WFP said that its funds would run out within weeks, according to Reuters.

At Oslo, international donors pledged $457 million toward the $1.5 billion the UN estimates it needs to address the humanitarian disaster in the Lake Chad Basin. However, Lundgren reports that in Nigeria aid agencies have received only 19 percent of the money asked for, in Cameroon agencies have received 23 percent, in Chad 4 percent, and in Niger 47 percent. Due to the size of its population, Nigeria has by far the greatest number of people facing potential starvation.

During the conference, donors pledged only about a third of the money the UN estimates is required to meet the Lake Chad humanitarian disaster, while the United States pledged no new money at all. With respect to pledges, slow payment is an old song, often reflecting national bureaucratic and other requirements. The UN number of 4.7 million in Nigeria needing rations to survive is higher than the more frequently cited estimate of 2.5 million (a figure in reference to those internally displaced by Boko Haram). However, given the destruction of northeast Nigeria, and the depths of its poverty even in the best of times, such statistics seem credible. The UN notes that it is unable to reach some 700,000 because of ongoing Boko Haram activities.

It remains to be seen when or if the American public will be galvanized by the famine, and whether it will demand greater proactivity from its federal government with regards to the crises.