The United Nations has temporarily halted humanitarian assistance missions in north-eastern Nigeria’s restive Borno state after yesterday’s attack on a multi-agency aid convoy which had been delivering desperately needed relief aid in a remote area of the region, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
“This was not only an attack on humanitarian workers. It is an attack on the people who most need the assistance and aid that these workers were bringing,” UNICEF said in a press statement on the attack, in which unknown assailants in north-eastern Nigeria attacked an aid convoy with UN staff traveling from Bama to Maiduguri.
UNICEF also confirmed that one of its staff along with a contractor from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) who were injured in the attack were being treated at a local hospital. All other staff from UNICEF and IOM, as well as the UN Population Fund (UNFPA were safe.
At today’s regular briefing in Geneva, UNICEF spokesperson Christophe Boulierac noted the importance of conducting missions in the area, saying: “Earlier in July, UNICEF had shared with the press some very alarming information, according to which, 244,000 children were suffering from severe acute malnutrition in Borno state in 2016. Out of those, an estimated one in five, including 49,000 children, would die if not reached with treatment.”
The spokesperson pointed out that two million people remained inaccessible in Borno state, emphasizing the need to scale up assistance.
Mr. Boulierac confirmed that a military escort accompanying the convoy, “which was quite unusual for humanitarian assistance missions,” had been able to take UNICEF staff to safety following the attack.
“UNICEF’s top priority is to reach the children,” he underscored, adding that the agency is not in a position to say who was responsible for the attack, only that a security assessment would be under way.
He stated that the agencies were screening and treating children for malnutrition and improving access to water and sanitation. UNICEF was also providing medical care, immunization, education and psychological support to the children of Nigeria, especially in Borno state.
In response to a question, Mr. Boulierac said that he had no information on any arrests following the attack.
Mr. Boulierac stressed that “the convoy had been delivering nutrition, water, sanitation and health support to the more than 25,000 people in Bama who had been displaced by the conflict,” noting that it had only recently become accessible for humanitarian assistance.
“The situation remains extremely serious and UNICEF wants and needs to do more, but that depends on a range of factors, such as access, security and funding,” he explained. “UNICEF wishes to raise awareness among all donors of the gravity of the situation in Borno and to urgently provide resources.”