Over 500,000 conflict-affected people in northeast Nigeria will be tossed “a lifeline,” thanks to a new UN humanitarian and development package, launched on Thursday.
The Resilience and Social Cohesion project, launched by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Food Programme (WFP), will enhance peace, increase livelihood opportunities, and provide education, health, nutrition, child protection, and sanitation support to vulnerable populations in Borno and Yobe states.
“This is a pathway to peace and sustainable development,’’ said the UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins.
Targeting the vulnerable
Funded to the tune of €40 million from the German Government, the three-year humanitarian package targets children from birth up to two years of age, pregnant women, school-age children, adolescent girls, female-headed households, and people with disabilities.
While leveraging ongoing humanitarian support in Bade Local Government Area (LGA) of Yobe state and Shani LGA of Borno state, the UN lead agencies will also provide interventions to address drivers of conflict and fragility throughout various sectors.
The project will help to strengthen local governance, promote community-based social cohesion and build government partnerships.
“Children and other vulnerable groups will have a lifeline, and an opportunity to survive and thrive in communities where livelihood and peace building activities are present,” the UNICEF Representative spelled out.
Now in its thirteenth year, armed conflict in the volatile northeast Nigeria – where the extremist militant group Boko Haram first surfaced - has levelled communities, destroyed livelihoods, and disrupted essential services for children and adults.
And protracted insecurity, high food prices and COVID-19 lockdowns have left more than four million people in need of food assistance.
The accompanying impact of violence and unrest has fuelled mental health, nutrition, education and child protection concerns.
According to the UN agencies, 1.14 million children across the region are acutely malnourished, on a scale not seen since 2018.
“Conflict in any region is potential instability in the rest of the world,’’ said Mr. Hawkins. “UNICEF is grateful to the German Government for supporting pathways to child survival and peace in northeast Nigeria”.
Bolstering the global goals
The programme will also contribute to seven of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), namely, poverty eradication (SDG-1), zero hunger (SDG-2), good health and wellbeing (SDG-3), access to quality education (SDG-4), gender equality (SDG-5), climate action (SDG-13), peace, justice and strong institutions (SDG-16) as well as partnership for the goals (SDG-17).
With a focus on building peace, strengthening governance, restoring infrastructures, and providing life-saving services, it is hoped that close to 157,000 people will benefit directly and over 362,000 indirectly, across both LGAs.
Giving thanks for the “timely and generous support” from Germany, the WFP Deputy Country Director in Nigeria, Simone Parchment, hailed the value of the project for those “facing the peril of conflict and hunger in northeast Nigeria”.
“In these affected states, persistent conflict, climate shocks, high food prices and reduced household purchasing power undermine people’s ability to feed themselves and sustain their livelihoods,” she said.
Against this backdrop, Germany’s contribution will “go a long way in building resilience, social cohesion and peace in the affected communities”.