By Ramya Kannan
The government and the army in Nigeria claim that Boko Haram has been almost wiped out of the country. However, in the backdrop of these claims, more than seven million people remain victims of a food crisis. Boko Haram catalysed this crisis. The world leaders have finally recognised the intensity of the situation. Delegates gathered in Oslo at the Humanitarian Conference on Nigeria and the Lake Chad region have promised to spend $672 million to deal with the crisis.
Boko Haram is a militant organisation which vehemently opposes the spread of western education in Nigeria and its surrounding areas. It has been the source of terror and destruction in the region since it was founded in 2009. Their actions came to the world’s notice after they kidnapped 276 girls from their school in 2014. However, the failure of the international community to act upon the humanitarian crisis in Nigeria has been startling.
The after-effects of terror
Boko Haram has left millions in Nigeria and surrounding regions either dead, injured or displaced. According to the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan, more than 10.7 million people are in a need of assistance to overcome the crisis.
The Nigerian government and army claim to have restricted the extent of attacks and destruction. Yet, a significant section of the population continues to live in a state of uncertainty and terror. Millions are uprooted due to forceful displacement. This is happening while food insecurity and the famine expand their looming presence.
The insurgency began in the northeastern parts of Nigeria and has caused irreversible damage to the civilian population. By forcing close to 2.6 million people out of their homes, it has deprived them of a stable life and a steady source of income. Boko Haram’s staunch opposition to western lifestyle has led to a systematic degradation of the quality of life.
Even as the presence of the terror outfit is restricted, the imminent famine in the country is a result of the havoc they caused. The inability of the farmers to undertake any agricultural activity for the last three planting seasons has led to severe malnutrition, especially among the children below the age of five. Close to 515,000 children face the prospect of stunted, restricted growth. The rate of people facing food insecurity continues to increase. The possibility of rain escalates the situation even further, given that a large part of the starving population continues to be homeless.
Nigerian army retaliates
The tactics employed by the Nigerian army have ensured that the famine does not leave Boko Haram unaffected. By cutting off their access to arms and food, the army has been successful in reducing the once-powerful terror group to intermittent acts of bombing and ambush. However, the regions which have been freed of their presence are still devoid of sufficient fuel, communication and public transport.
The allegiance pledged by the international community to tackle the humanitarian crisis is commendable but not enough.
It is paramount to find more sustainable ways of dealing with Boko Haram. This needs to be done while ensuring that the effect on civilian life is minimal. It will take years for Nigeria to get back to a state of normalcy. For now, the food crisis threatens the future of the population in unimaginable ways.