There are 10.6 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in north-east Nigeria. The unprecedented challenge of the coronavirus pandemic comes at a time of worsening humanitarian needs. Close to 39,000 people have been killed, and thousands of women and girls have been abducted as a result of nearly 11 years of conflict. There is widespread forced displacement and acute violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.
In Africa's most populous country, more than 50% of the population lives in extreme poverty. In the northeastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, the conflict continues to uproot civilians. Severe child malnutrition is at emergency levels.
The majority of people who had to flee for safety live in makeshift settlements or highly congested camps and rely mostly on the support of local communities, authorities, and humanitarian organisations. Overcrowding brings with it cyclical epidemic outbreaks, rampant fires, and an increased risk of sexual and gender-based violence. It is nearly impossible to enforce physical distancing in these settings, a crucial measure to preventing the spread of coronavirus.
An increase in violence in north-east Nigeria caused 150,000 people to flee their home in 2020. Furthermore, some 1.2 million people cannot be reached by humanitarian workers due to ongoing hostilities, threats of attacks, and movement restrictions imposed by the military. These access constraints pose hindrances to the delivery of life-saving assistance at time when it is most crucial to reach populations to prevent and respond to the coronavirus outbreak.
Humanitarian aid workers continue to put their life on the line to deliver life-saving assistance to those who need it, in keeping with the humanitarian principles. In 2019, 12 humanitarian workers were executed by non-state armed groups and 4 others killed in 2020 with frequent security incidents against humanitarians.
The European Union is one of the leading contributors of humanitarian aid in Nigeria. It provides immediate assistance to cover the basic needs of the most vulnerable internally displaced people and host communities in the country, and of refugees in other countries affected by the conflict in Nigeria, namely Chad (Lake region), Niger (Diffa region), and Cameroon (Far North region). Since 2014, the EU has provided more than €285 million to help people in need in Nigeria, including the €44.5 million funding allocated in 2020.
EU humanitarian aid helps to meet the basic needs of the conflict-affected people by supporting emergency food aid, shelter, access to clean water, hygiene and sanitation, basic primary healthcare, protection and education. The EU currently funds food assistance in the form of cash transfers, vouchers and food rations for families, ready-to-use therapeutic food, and essential medicines to treat severely malnourished children. In order to facilitate humanitarian access to people in need, the EU supports the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) that enables aid workers to reach isolated areas.
EU humanitarian aid allocated over €9 million to prevention and response to coronavirus in Nigeria. The EU and the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) have also cooperated on 3 EU Humanitarian Air Bridge flights, transporting 52 tonnes of medical equipment and vital health supplies.
Given the special protection needs of women and children that arise in conflict situations, apposite community-based services receive EU funding. The aim is to provide the necessary psychosocial support and referral services to unaccompanied children, victims of gender-based violence, and to help former child soldiers released from armed groups to reintegrate in society. Among the EU-funded actions are also projects that give children trapped in humanitarian crises a basic education alongside essential school supplies.
The EU is supporting disaster risk reduction initiatives in disaster-prone areas in Nigeria. These help vulnerable people better prepare for and reduce the impact of recurring natural hazards, such as epidemics and floods. Through these projects, essential information about risks and prevention is shared with communities and consequently, this strengthens the local response through planning and preventive actions.
Beyond trying to meet immediate humanitarian needs, joint efforts with development partners are required to help build long-term resilience. Nigeria is an EU pilot country for projects bringing together humanitarian, development and peace-building dimensions to address the needs of vulnerable people and offer them social protection through a more long-term and holistic approach.
Through its development assistance, the EU aims to build long-term resilience in conflict-affected communities by addressing the underlying causes of violent conflict, supporting basic services and helping people to support themselves. As part of its projects supporting development, the EU funds programmes on education and on helping people become independent of humanitarian assistance.