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With warfare continuing between the Islamist radical movement Boko Haram and the Nigerian security forces, the resulting humanitarian crisis in northern Nigeria is deepening. The United Nations (UN) estimates that there are between two and three million internally displaced persons (IDP). How many there really are is impossible to know. A small percentage are in formal camps. The majority appear to have been taken in by kin.
The security services have liberated some women and girls kidnapped by Boko Haram. Again, exactly how many is not known, in part because of the lack of transparency and incomplete official statistics. However, International Alert, a peace-building group, and the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), both of which are highly credible, report that there is widespread community rejection of the freed women and girls. In some cases rejection is based on fear that those liberated have been radicalized and will recruit others. Others are rejected as “Boko Haram wives,” and rape carries a strong cultural stigma.
Finally, there is anecdotal evidence that is highly credible that food prices in parts of the northeast have reached famine levels. There is a United Nations estimate that there are 223,000 severely malnourished children that could die absent immediate help, according to the New York Times. Periodically, the security services announce that because they have cleared Boko Haram from certain territories, IDP’s go home. But many flee again because of renewed Boko Haram depredations. The pervasive lack of security in the northeast makes the delivery of humanitarian assistance and services by the Nigerian government and the international community highly problematic.