In a recent United nations Development Programme (UNDP) Report, which was published on the crisis in the north-east of Nigeria, it was revealed that the conflict in the region could result in the loss of 1.1 million Nigerian lives by 2030, if the current investment deficit in development is not addressed.
Since 2009, the devastating conflict in north-eastern Nigeria has directly resulted in the deaths of approximately 35,000 people. However, indirect deaths, especially from disease and hunger resulting from the conflict’s physical and economic destruction, already far outnumber those from direct causes.
In ‘assessing the impact of conflict on development in Northeast Nigeria’, the UNDP stated that critical aspects of progress and development, including Gross Domestic Product (GDP), poverty, malnutrition, infant mortality, education, water availability, and sanitation, may not return to pre-conflict levels even by 2030.
Findings from the report show that for each casualty caused directly by insurgency, an additional nine people, primarily children, have lost their lives due to lack of food and resources. As a result, more than 90 percent of conflict-attributable deaths are of children under the age of five.
Physical and economic destruction wrought by the Boko Haram insurgency has dismantled already fragile health and food systems. Less than 60 percent of health facilities in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe States are fully functional, while a quarter is either completely destroyed or non-functional.
Attacks from insurgency have also led to massive internal displacement. More than 1.8 million Nigerians are displaced in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe States, with the vast majority (nearly 1.5 million) located in Borno. In addition, 1.8 million students were out of school in 2020, and without increased investment in development efforts, the average Nigerian in the northeast will have lost a full year of education by 2030.
While the Government of Nigeria has made great strides in retaking and stabilising the region, continued investment in development from both national and international stakeholders is needed. “Without continued investment in development as a long-term solution, the protracted conflict in Northeast Nigeria will continue to impact other parts of the country and the entire Sahel region,” said the UNDP Resident Representative, Mr. Mohamed Yahya. “There is a need for international partners and national stakeholders to ensure that funds are invested not only on life-saving and humanitarian needs but also mid-and long-term development priorities to enable Nigeria to achieve the SDGs and attain the AU 2063.”
The report findings suggest that to overcome the conflict, development efforts need to be focused on the stabilisation of affected areas at the community level. The approach enhances physical security and access to justice, rehabilitation of essential infrastructure and basic service delivery, as well as the revitalisation of the local economy such as market stalls, schools, and police stations.
This UNDP report, coming on the heels of a United Nations OCHA study, reinforces its findings that stabilisation is the way to prevent upwards of 29 million people in the Sahel region from needing costly humanitarian aid.
After more than 10 years of conflict between non-state armed groups and the Nigerian military, the situation is only getting worse. The conflict is intensifying, and the needs are massive. The United Nations estimates that there are more than two million people who have been displaced from their homes due to violence and more than seven million who depend entirely on humanitarian aid to survive.
The humanitarian situation remains critical in northeast Nigeria, with an estimated 8.7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and more than 1.9 million internally displaced persons from nearly 365,000 households.
In ‘garrison towns’, controlled by the Nigerian military, there are still critical needs that are not covered, especially when it comes to healthcare, clean water, shelter, and protection. For example, in the case of Pulka, the population has tripled since the beginning of the conflict and there isn’t enough farmland to cultivate food. In addition, people cannot go beyond the town’s military perimetre. If they do, they run the risk of being attacked by non-state armed groups or being considered part of the armed groups by the Nigerian military.
And outside the garrison towns, the needs are expected to be even higher since there are more than one million people that have not received humanitarian assistance since the beginning of the conflict.
The most serious problem is that more than a million people are living in areas controlled by non-state armed groups – humanitarian organisations do not have access to these areas, and the people living there do not receive any kind of aid at all.
The security situation has clearly deteriorated in recent months, and it is a challenge for humanitarian organisations to provide adequate assistance to people.
Aid organisations also face the risk of violence – unfortunately, the killings and abductions of humanitarian staff have remained a huge source of concern, and because of this, the presence of aid is very limited outside the state capital, Maiduguri.
As part of the commitment of the Federal Government to coherently coordinate humanitarian assistance in the country, it has developed a National Humanitarian Development Peace Framework (NHDPF) through the National Humanitarian Coordination Committee (NHCC). This framework seeks to ensure “peace, stability, and resilience in Nigeria by promoting home-grown approaches to proactively address critical humanitarian and development challenges”.
It is also worthy of note that, to successfully address the humanitarian crisis in Nigeria, collaboration is needed from all relevant stakeholders, continuous interaction, and cooperation between the Humanitarian Country Team, the Federal Government, security agencies, and other relevant actors.
Going forward, for the military to strengthen its hold in the northeast, one option is to integrate the civilian militia groups into a broader community policing framework. This would allow the security forces to continue tapping into their local expertise, while also ensuring that the militias receive adequate training and are linked to community justice mechanisms.