Nigeria: when violence and climate play into the hands of hunger

Caritas International Nigeria: when violence and climate play into the hands of hunger

© CRS/Michael Stulman

24/03/2017

Eight years ago, an armed conflict began in Nigeria. Conflict which – for 4 years – has never ceased intensifying and which today exceeds the borders of the country. In Niger, Chad, and Cameroon, violence is also common: Boko Haram attacks public places, kidnaps women and girls, and destroys towns and villages. The crops are ruined, the cattle stolen, the markets closed. When it is not the movements of the Nigerian army that take the population hostage.

In the distance, engine noises sound. Shettima Babaari knew only too well what that meant: Boko Haram was on the way. His village will soon be besieged. In a few moments, he and his family of nine had to leave everything to escape Boko Haram.

The Shettima and his family finally found refuge in Maiduguri, the capital of the state of Borno and, until 2009, economic capital of Northeast Nigeria. They were not the only ones looking for protection. The city’s population has doubled and currently exceeds 2 million people.

Humanitarian crisis

The conflict has pushed more than 2.6 million people – including 1.5 million children – on the roads of exile. Most refugees and IDPs are located around Lake Chad, a lake which – due to climate change and the impact of our companies on the environment – now represents only 10% of its initial volume. The problems caused by the decline of water are reinforced by the influx of refugees.

This major humanitarian crisis, almost forgotten in our country, is getting worse from day to day. In some areas, the inhabitants have not been able to cultivate since three years ago. No agriculture, no harvest, 8.2 million people need food, water and basic aid urgently. In Nigeria alone, 5.1 million people are affected by food insecurity. 450,000 children are undernourished.

“At home, we had more than 100 cows,” says Shettima. “We had no problems until the arrival of Boko Haram. The two years that the family has just spent in Maiduguri are marked by hunger and poverty. They abandoned all they had for the price of survival and a life of misery.

Caritas' response

Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Caritas partner in the Untied States, has given Shettima and her family an electronic card with which they can buy food, soap, water tanks, kitchen utensils, and firewood. The card allows refugees to live with dignity. It leaves them the choice of spending. Since the beginning of this program in May 2015, CRS has distributed 8,500 cards and thus helped 50,000 people.

Food aid is a priority, but CRS has also helped 1,650 families find shelter or water distribution, sanitation, and hygiene. Caritas organizes emergency aid but also chooses to act in the longer term. For example, distributions of tools and seeds allow refugees to meet their own food needs.

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