Ten years into the protracted armed conflict in Nigeria’s North-East, the United Nations says that over 7.1 million people have been affected in the Lake Chad Basin and are in dire need of protection and humanitarian assistance.
The UN also reveals that the conflict has caused internal displacements and has led to 2.5 million people being uprooted throughout the Lake Chad Basin, with 1.8 million internally displaced people in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states in Nigeria alone.
Similarly, the UN says that 500,000 people are internally displaced in Cameroon, Chad and Niger while 230,000 Nigerian refugees have crossed borders to seek safe harbor in these neighboring three countries.
It further revealed that since the start of the conflict in 2009, more than 27,000 people have been killed in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states, thousands of women and girls abducted in the last two years and close to 300 children used as human bombs.
In a bid to tackling the dire humanitarian and protection crisis, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) organised the Second Regional Protection Dialogue (RPD), in Abuja, Nigeria.
The session is a follow up to the First RPD held in June 2016 during which the 24-points action Plan, also known as the Abuja Declaration, was adopted to provide a framework for countries in the Lake Chad Basin in tackling the crisis.
The Second RPD which brought together relevant UN agencies, government representatives from the four Lake Chad Basin (LCB) countries of Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad was aimed at a reviewing progresses made in the implementation of Abuja Declaration.
Following the Dialogue, the UN and Nigerian government launched the two year plan Nigerian Regional Refugees Response Plan (RRRP) 2019-2020 as well as the three-year Humanitarian Response Strategy (HRS) 2019-2021.
The Nigeria RRRP is seeking 135 million dollars to address the displacement crises in the LCB while the HRS seeks 840 million dollars to address the humanitarian crisis in Nigeria’s North East.
At the launch, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari said that resolutions from the RPD provided a roadmap and framework for all concerned countries and stakeholders towards tackling the many issues confronting the Lake Chad Basin
Buhari who was represented by Vice President Yemi Osibanjo said that most important message was that the humanitarian and protection challenges crisis in the Lake Chad remained urgent and required active collaboration to bring stability and succor to the region.
“While we assist displaced persons to return to their homes and communities, we are mindful of the need not to prioritise return over the safety of the displaced persons.
“I must say that the current rate of return of these IDPs and refugees is encouraging; and this is due to improving security in many areas that were once out of bounds.
“Let me also specially commend the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and other development partners for their efforts in ensuring the safe return of the IDP and Refugees.
“Our challenge now is to ensure that this improving security extends to the other areas in which we have witnessed recent unfortunate setbacks,’’ he said.
He called on governments, development partners, local businesses and the private sector generally to recommit to a speedy implementation of all the objectives of the second dialogue.
The UNHCR also disclosed that with heighten insecurity in the LCB, there have been cases of new displacements with 320,000 people displaced in the last three-months, a situation which calls for urgent interventions.
It revealed that in the last three weeks, there have been a heightened security problem in Baga-Kawa which have resulted in the flight of another six thousand Nigerian refugees into Chad.
The security problems in Rann has also resulted in the flight of nine thousand Nigerians into Cameroon and this is a situation that only comes to reinforce the need for us to sit again.
Mr Volker Turk, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection said that the 135 million dollars appeal for the Nigeria RRRP would respond to the humanitarian and development needs of displaced Nigerians and refugees.
He said that the comprehensive response includes protection of affected population, access to basic and social services, self reliance, regional coordination amongst others.
In tackling the cases of new displacement, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that it urgently requires 50 million dollars from the 840 million dollar humanitarian for swift response.
Edem Worsonu, Head of Office, OCHA, Nigeria said that as a matter of urgency, OCHA would launch a 90-day plan, aimed at addressing the needs of new displacements to avoid them falling into secondary displacements.
“We are about to launch a ninety-day plan within this plan, seeking for 50 million dollars right now within the 840 million to assist new arrivals who have moved recently from insecurity.
“We need assistance right now and the general support of our donors has been recoginised and we continue to call them for support.
“We also call on the Nigerian private sector and the government, so that we can join hands and deliver the assistance to the people. But we call for urgent funding for people in need right now,’’ Worsonu said.
With the call for addressing the protection and humanitarian needs on the front-burner, the clamour for protection of aid workers would not be thrown in the shades.
In the same vein, Mr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Special Representative to the Secretary General UN Organisation for West Africa & Sahel (UNOWAS) called for the protection of humanitarian aid workers, stating that they should not be targets.
“The United Nations is urging the Government of Nigeria and all governments in the region to prioritize the protection of civilians.
“The protection of aid workers and humanitarian assets is also paramount.
“In 2018, six aid workers were killed, including two aid workers who were brutally executed by non-state armed groups after having been kidnapped on March 1 and one aid worker, a female midwife, is still being held.
“The United Nations strongly condemns the killing and abduction of aid workers and urges all parties to the conflict to enable the work of humanitarians, facilitate their access to people in need and afford them protection in line with International Humanitarian Law.
“The United Nations also calls for the release of the aid worker who is still being held,’’ Chambas said.
While commending the Nigerian government, Chambas stressed the need for the administration to continue embracing its leadership role in the North-East.
He said the UN was calling on the Nigerian government to facilitate the implementation of the strategy for the people of the three affected states in North-East Nigeria.
On their part, development partners from international and national organizations also in attendance, called for a more inclusive and coordinated approach in responding to ensure efficiency and to avoid duplication of efforts.
Analysts say addressing the many challenges in the region calls for a more practical approach, hence the time to work the talk.