At least $396 million is urgently needed to prevent widespread hunger and malnutrition in northeast Nigeria from turning into a " real disaster", the United Nations office in the country said on Thursday.
“We are ringing the alarm bells because there are people who are on the verge of (starvation) death right now in the northeast,” said Matthias Schmale, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Nigeria, in the capital, Abuja, when the lean season food and nutrition crisis plan was released.
Security forces in northeast Nigeria are battling jihadists who launched an insurgency in 2009 to crack down on Western education and establish Islamic Sharia law in the region. At least 35,000 people have been killed and more than 2 million have been displaced due to the violence, according to data from UN agencies in Nigeria.
A splinter faction of the extremist group Boko Haram, known as ISWAP, has risen to prominence, dominating the fringes of the Lake Chad region where its fighters often target security force convoys and outposts.
The UN has said that more than 80% of those in need in this hard-hit region are women and children, making them more vulnerable to other forms of crime and violence. She warned that the lack of funds could increase the risk of famine.
Humanitarian organizations have reported unprecedented numbers of malnourished children in the conflict zone, with hunger hitting many families hard, including in hard-to-reach areas. French charity Médecins Sans Frontières said last month that the number of weekly admissions of children was two to three times higher than previous records over the past five years.
Mr. Schmale, the humanitarian aid coordinator, said he spoke with children who go days without having enough to eat and with mothers who struggle for the lives of their malnourished children.
“More than half a million people could face emergency levels of food insecurity with extremely high rates of acute malnutrition and death cases if there is no rapid and significant increase. humanitarian aid," he said.