By Zakari Usman
On his first official visit to Nigeria, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Peter Maurer has called on the international community and other humanitarian organizations to do more to address the devastating consequences of the humanitarian crisis in the Lake Chad region.
Visiting the north-eastern city of Maiduguri, at the epicentre of fighting between Boko Haram and the Nigerian army, the ICRC president expressed alarm at the scale of the humanitarian needs and the horrific mental and physical scars the violence is leaving on the population.
“Whole communities have fled their villages and endured unimaginable suffering. Traumatized people, without homes, belongings, income and education for their children – what does the future hold for them? They need support far beyond what the ICRC can provide, yet in many hard-hit places we find ourselves alone. This is a big problem that is not going anywhere, and it demands serious attention,” said Mr Maurer.
The conflict has spread beyond Nigeria’s borders into neighbouring Chad, Cameroon and Niger. An estimated 1.5 million people have been displaced, mostly within Nigeria itself.
Mr Maurer warned that were no quick fixes. “Even if the fighting stops tomorrow, it will take years of investment and painstaking work to rebuild livelihoods and services, overcome the trauma and find some sense of normality.”
In Abuja, the ICRC president met senior officials to discuss the conflict. “With a new government incoming, Nigeria has a real opportunity to address the root causes of the violence. It will need to show stubborn commitment to that task to be successful, and will need support from regional States and the wider international community. For our part, we are committed to stepping up our help to victims of violence,” added Mr Maurer.
The ICRC is appealing to donors for an additional 60 million Swiss francs (65 million USD) to more than double its humanitarian response across the four affected countries. Working closely with dedicated staff and volunteers from the Nigerian Red Cross, the ICRC will use the funds to deliver food to over half a million people, improve access to drinking water for the most needy and provide healthcare including specialist war surgery.