The European Union and the United Nations expressed concerns, in a joint press conference on Friday 24 January, about the recent upsurge in attacks against aid workers and civilians recorded in recent weeks in the north-eastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.
Amidst a deteriorating security situation, they reiterated their commitment to work better together and strengthen efforts to provide life-saving assistance to those affected by more than ten years of crisis in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states, in north-east Nigeria, and to increase support to people rebuilding their lives and communities.
On his first official trip outside Europe, Janez Lenarčič, European Commissioner for Crisis Management, joined by the Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr Edward Kallon, met with the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, H.E. Muhammadu Buhari, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hon. Sadiya Umar Farouq, and H.E. Borno State Governor, Prof Babagana Zulum, as well as various partners from local CSOs, international NGOs and UN agencies implementing the humanitarian response in north-east Nigeria.
During this two-day visit, Commissioner Lenarčič and Mr Kallon, also met with people displaced and affected by the violence in the Borno State town of Gwoza and visited EU-funded relief projects.
Announcing that the European Union will allocate an additional €26.5 million in humanitarian aid, Commissioner Lenarčič declared: “I saw first-hand today the suffering that conflict has brought to people’s lives and how crucial humanitarian aid is to people’s survival. What matters most is that humanitarian organisations can reach all the people in need, without restrictions, including in areas under the influence of non-state armed groups. It is vital that all States and parties to armed conflicts respect their obligation to allow and facilitate the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief. It is also key to implement in parallel a comprehensive strategy in the region, exploring political tracks while addressing the root causes of conflict.”
Recent weeks have been marked by an upsurge in violent attacks from non-state armed groups and an increasing trend of illegal checkpoints on major supply and commercial routes directly targeting civilians, authorities and aid workers, especially in Borno State. Twelve aid workers were deliberately and brutally murdered by non-state armed groups in 2019, twice the number in 2018. Two aid workers, Grace Taku and Alice Loksha, are still being held hostage by non-state armed groups and the humanitarian community call for their immediate and safe release.
“This highly symbolic visit comes at a critical time and brings together the United Nations, international and Nigerian NGOs, local and national CSOs and the European Union, as one of the most important donors,” highlighted Mr Kallon. “We are extremely worried that civilians and those who are providing them with assistance are the direct target of violent attacks, hindering our ability to save lives and help people rebuild livelihoods and communities.”
“All actors and stakeholders must strengthen their efforts to provide life-saving assistance to the most vulnerable people affected by the crisis, and do their utmost to guarantee the protection of civilians and aid workers, and safe, unconditional access to the people in need,” added the Humanitarian Coordinator.
The humanitarian crisis in Nigeria remains one of the largest crises across the globe. In a complex and volatile security environment, the United Nations and NGO partners, in collaboration with local and national authorities in Nigeria, have delivered urgent support and basic services to over 5.6 million people in the crisis-affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, in Nigeria’s north-east.
In 2020, the humanitarian community estimates that 7.7 million people will need emergency assistance. Over 1.8 million people, across the three crisis-affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe are still living in camps or are hosted in other communities, that are themselves becoming extremely vulnerable. 1.2 million people in need remain cut off from humanitarian aid in hard-to-reach areas.
More than ten years of crisis in north-east Nigeria continues to uproot civilians and deepen humanitarian needs. The past year has been characterised by waves of displacements caused by deteriorating insecurity, increased attacks by non-state armed groups (NSAGs) and military operations, resulting in a significant increase in humanitarian needs and protection risks throughout 2019. The number of people in need of urgent assistance alarmingly rose from 7.1 million in 2019 to 7.7 million in 2020.
The conflict limits people’s access to food, trade, and basic services. Over 2 million people have fled their homes in search of safety. 3.8 million people are at risk of food insecurity at crisis and emergency levels.
In a challenging operating and security context, humanitarian aid workers in Nigeria, guided by humanitarian