UN’s plan for the North East

IDP Camp in North East of Nigeria

According to the United Nations (UN) Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the tragedy in north-east Nigeria occasioned by Boko Haram violence and military counter -operations is one of the most severe in the world today with the attendant humanitarian crisis.

Across the six affected states of Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Bauchi, Gombe and Taraba, 10.2 million people are estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance in 2018, of whom 52 per cent are women and girls, and 48 per cent are men and boys; while children constitute 63 per cent of the lot.

The most acute humanitarian needs are in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States, which may account for the why the UN launched the 2018 humanitarian response plan for the North-East with a funding requirement of $1.05 billion and a plan to reach 6.1 million people in those states.

This response plan is by 60 organisations, including UN agencies and international and national non-governmental organisations (NGOs). While, this is a welcome development, it is not the first attempt at recovery, stabilisation and peace-building in the North-East.

On July 31, 2014, a fundraising dinner was held to launch Nigeria’s Terror Victim Support Fund in the State House, Abuja.

The event was for the private sector, international foundations and funding agencies as well as all Nigerians to contribute to the fund which was established to support victims of terrorism in Nigeria. Over N80 billion was raised at the dinner.

The Victims Support Funds Committee was chaired by Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd). Various dignitaries across different sectors of the economy donated to the trust fund.

Furthermore, the May 2014 Safe School Initiative was also a response to the high-profile Chibok girls’ abduction, and the Federal as well as state governments in Nigeria set up funds for the 57 students who escaped Boko Haram abductors, with support from international agencies and foreign governments.

Also, President Muhammadu Buhari has made various attempts at rebuilding the North East in the wake of the devastation by the Boko Haram insurgents. He established the Presidential Committee on North-East Interventions (PCNI) and recently signed a bill establishing the North East Development Commission (NEDC).

The establishment and inauguration of PCNI in July 2015, and October 26, 2016 respectively; were for the committee chaired by Lt. Gen Theophilus Y. Danjuma to serve as the primary national strategy, coordination and advisory body for all humanitarian interventions, transformational and developmental efforts in the North-East region.

The Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, recently noted that the Federal Government appropriated $3.1 billion for the North-East crisis in the 2018 budget and also budgeted $1 billion for security in Nigeria.

She added that the Nigerian government had been providing additional resources to support military operations and security; and that access to communities in the North-East had been improved compared to what was the case in the last three years.

However, access to communities does not mean that the communities have the basic things needed for the communities to be ‘safe sanctuaries’ and habitable.

So, there have been various attempts at tackling the humanitarian crisis in the North-east, However, implementation appears slow and the Dapchi school girls’ abduction in Yobe State on Monday, 19, February 2018 attests to this!

Judicious and timely use of the Terror Victim Support Fund for instance to fence off schools and having emergency response preparedness plan would have reduced the vulnerabilities, which the insurgents exploited in the Dapchi School abduction!

So, merely throwing money at the humanitarian crisis in the North-East, may not necessarily solve the problem.

Ensuring timely and judicious use of such would reduce vulnerabilities and humanitarian crisis.

Relevant committees should track the Terror Victim Support Fund and Safe School Initiative interventions to ensure accountability and transparency in the administration of the funds, maximise the funds and reduce the humanitarian crises in the North-East.

Also, donors should not spend greater part of humanitarian funds on foreign consultants’ fat salaries, air travels and hospitality.

Funds should be judiciously used focusing on three key priorities –basic needs for survival and protection, localisation of the response which should build on existing partnership between international and national organisations, and community engagement to ensure that the communities are at the centre of humanitarian action and decision-making.

All the parties – government at levels, military, donors, international and national civil society organisations and communities should have an assistance framework on the pressing and unfolding crisis as a first-order priority.

These parties should share knowledge, including their assessments of the gravity of the situation and areas of greatest needs as well as clarify guiding principles and improve working relations. This will minimize duplication and wasting of time. 

Finally, governments at all levels need to be far more proactive, because a more strategic humanitarian aid is de-escalating the conflict in the region, by working for and promoting the common value of peace!

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