The humanitarian fallout from the violence inflicted by Boko Haram is the fastest growing crisis in Africa, a senior United Nations relief official warned today, appealing for concerted action on the humanitarian, security and development fronts to tackle the situation.
Recurrent conflict, erratic weather patterns, epidemics and other shocks continue to weaken the resilience of households across the Sahel region, which suffers from chronic levels of food insecurity and malnutrition.
On top of that, violent conflict has led to a surge in population displacement in and around the region, which is one of the poorest in the world and home to 140 million people.
“We now consider this the fastest growing crisis in Africa,” Toby Lanzer, Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel, said at a press conference at UN Headquarters.
“We’ve got 2.5 million people who have been uprooted, tossed out of their villages, off their islands, away from their farmlands… 1.4 million kids who have been displaced in the last few months alone… 1,100 schools have been destroyed.”
In a separate interview with the UN News Centre, Mr. Lanzer voiced particular concern about Mali and the Lake Chad Basin.
“It’s in those two places that the greatest human suffering is occurring in the region in terms of the fallout of violence,” he said.
There are about 5.5 million people in need of humanitarian aid – out of total 30 million – in the Lake Chad Basin, he noted. Some 2.5 million people have been displaced in north-eastern Nigeria, northern Cameroon, western Chad, and south-eastern Niger.
“It’s much more than humanitarian action that’s required,” he stated. “It’s a package of security and stability measures, development measures and humanitarian action that’s really required across the region…
“It’s important for the peace and security part of the puzzle to dovetail with development work of the international community and for that to complement the humanitarian work that we are engaged in.”
He warned that if action is not taken, “the grip of extremism could get ever tighter” and there will be more and more people who will be tempted, or even forced, to migrate.
“So I think the situation across the region is one that deserves every ounce of the world’s attention.”