Europe ignores Nigeria humanitarian crisis at its peril, warns top UN official

UN assistant secretary general Toby Lanzer says urgent aid to help stabilise communities in the Lake Chad region is also in Europe’s broader interests

The humanitarian crisis in northern Nigeria has implications that Europe can ill afford to ignore, according to a top UN official. Nigeria was the third largest source of migrants crossing the Mediterranean in 2016 (pdf).

Toby Lanzer, the UN assistant secretary general and lead humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel, said the situation facing the Lake Chad region, which straddles the borders of Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Chad – and where more than 10 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance – was as bad as any he had seen in 20 years.

The long-running Boko Haram insurgency has led to the displacement of more than 2 million people in the region, left farmers unable to harvest crops and prevented aid groups from reaching communities in remote areas.

Lanzer, seeking to rally support ahead of a major donor conference in Oslo that will be co-hosted by Nigeria, Germany and Norway on 24 February, said European countries had done too little to tackle the crisis despite the opportunity to address humanitarian and migration issues in tandem.

“It’s not only that we want Nigeria to be stable for the prosperity of that country and its people,” Lanzer said. “Also, it’s in our broader interests at home.

“This is a double win, if you want. You don’t want the most populous country on the African continent becoming increasingly unstable; at the same time, you want people there prospering and not having to flee from violence or seek opportunity elsewhere.”

Toby Lanzer
UN assistant secretary general Toby Lanzer. Photograph: Loey Felipe/UN

In December the UN appealed to global donors for $1.5bn (£1.2bn) for the crisis in the Lake Chad region, including $1.05bn for Nigeria. The 2016 appeal, which was originally for $531m, had only received 53% funding as of this month.

“There is a convergence of interests here,” Lanzer said. “I think the UK is probably doing all it can, both on the humanitarian and development fronts, but I think making calls to other capitals across Europe is going to be something that is really vital over the next two weeks to generate more interest.

“There are about 515,000 children who are at risk of starvation right now, so step up, Netherlands; step up, Denmark. You have got to show some solidarity now and it is in your interests to do so.”

Asked about reports that the new White House administration was planning drastic cuts to its funding for the UN, Lanzer said that he was counting on the US to continue the good work it had done in north-east Nigeria and the broader Lake Chad basin over the past year.

“It’s on my mind, obviously,” said Lanzer. “It’s on everybody’s mind. I would hope that anybody who has been engaged in emergency response – whether their name is President Obama or President Trump or any other leader of the world – would recognise that emergency response is just that … not providing [this kind of help] exacerbates situations, which is in nobody’s interests.”

Contributor

Ben Quinn

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Almost 30 million will need aid in Sahel this year as crisis worsens, UN warns
Armed conflicts, the climate crisis and Covid-19 are contributing to chronic risk of food insecurity in the region, says Unocha report

Saeed Kamali Dehghan

28, Apr, 2021 @3:34 PM

Article image
Violence around Lake Chad is leading nowhere – just deepening divides | Patrick Youssef
An underreported conflict has ripped apart the remote region with civilians targeted and millions needing food and other aid

Patrick Youssef

30, Jun, 2016 @6:00 AM

Article image
What next for the millions uprooted by Boko Haram? – photo essay
Four photographers document the impact of an uprising that has fractured lives across the Lake Chad region, leaving 8 million people in dire need

Ruth Maclean and Eric Hilaire

05, Apr, 2018 @10:10 AM

Article image
Boko Haram: soaring numbers of children used in suicide attacks, says Unicef
Across north-east Nigeria and neighbouring countries, 44 children were used in suicide attacks in 2015, three-quarters of them girls

Sam Jones

12, Apr, 2016 @9:55 AM

Article image
Violence forces 1.9 million children out of classes in west and central Africa
Unicef report points to three-fold increase in number of schools closed in the region in two years due to intensifying conflict

Saeed Kamali Dehghan

23, Aug, 2019 @8:00 AM

Article image
Boko Haram is losing ground – but will not be defeated by weapons alone | Vincent Foucher
Leaders meeting at the Lake Chad basin summit must battle the region’s humanitarian and development needs to combat the insurgency

Vincent Foucher

13, May, 2016 @11:52 AM

Article image
Call for urgent action in Sahel to prevent humanitarian emergency

Levels of malnutrition in areas of west Africa becoming dangerously high, warns Oxfam, as the NGO launches an emergency appeal

Liz Ford

09, Mar, 2012 @11:24 AM

Article image
Aid alone won't stop refugees fleeing to Europe's shores from the Sahel | Tony Blair
An international alliance must create a plan for the fragile African states of the Sahel to prevent catastrophe in a region already buckling under the strain

Tony Blair

18, Sep, 2017 @1:03 PM

Article image
'I don’t know where my family is': Cameroon's refugees flee brutality
Cameroon’s ruthless conflict has splintered families and forced tens of thousands of people into Nigeria, where they lack shelter and food

07, Jun, 2018 @11:28 AM

Article image
World’s poorest bear brunt of climate crisis: 10 underreported emergencies
Care International report highlights ‘deep injustice’ neglected by world’s media, as extreme weather along with Covid wipes out decades of progress

Saeed Kamali Dehghan

14, Jan, 2022 @6:15 AM