Despite an attack on a humanitarian convoy in which one of its staff members was injured, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is scaling up its response to provide assistance to thousands of conflict-affected children in Nigeria’s Borno state, which has borne the brunt of violence by Boko Haram insurgents.
The agency estimates that 244,000 will suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year in Borno state alone and if they are not reached with treatment, one in five of them will die.
“We cannot let this heartless attack divert any of us from reaching the more than two million people who are in dire need of immediate humanitarian assistance,” said UNICEF Nigeria Representative, Jean Gough, in a news release issued by the agency.
“The violence has disrupted farming and markets, destroyed food stocks, and damaged or destroyed health and water facilities. We absolutely have to reach more of these communities,” she stressed.
Last week, unknown assailants attacked a humanitarian convoy returning from Bama in Borno state to the state capital Maiduguri after delivering desperately needed humanitarian assistance. The convoy included staff from UNICEF, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
An IOM contractor was also injured.
UNICEF said that is already working at full strength in Maiduguri and has called on donors and humanitarian organizations to scale-up the response to the emerging disaster in the state.
“Our teams were finding people living on the brink of disaster,” said Jean Gough, “The violence has disrupted farming and markets, destroyed food stocks, and damaged or destroyed health and water facilities.”
Before the attack, security conditions had been improving in several areas but as a result of the attack, travel by UN staff to high risk areas has been temporarily suspended.
However, despite the temporary suspension, UNICEF plans to scale-up its response in Borno state. At the beginning of the year, the agency had appealed for $55 million for its emergency work, of which $23 million has so far been received.
The agency has provided two million people with health services and treated 56,000 children for malnutrition in the three conflict-affected states of northeast Nigeria. A quarter of a million people have improved access to clean water, and over 200,000 children have been able to go back to school.