Nigeria’s economic slowdown, compounded by Boko Haram attacks, could mean 5.5 million people needing food aid in the volatile North-east by next month, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has warned.
The warning came as the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) disclosed that about 161,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) from the North Eastern part of Nigeria were still at various camps in three neighbouring countries of Chad, Niger and Cameroon.
It also emerged that, as part of efforts to end insurgency, the Nigerian Army had embarked on operations in forests in Bauchi State in order to flush out fleeing Boko Haram members and criminal elements in the state.
UNHCR, while issuing the warning, noted that, as government troops advance against the militants, the somewhat better access for aid workers under military escort to Borno and Yobe states has exposed “catastrophic levels” of suffering and a “vast regional crisis.”
Inflation and soaring food prices come at a time when people have little left from the last harvest, according the U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP) .
“Because of Nigeria’s economic downturn, the number of hungry people could double in the North-eastern states that are already so heavily afflicted by the conflict,” WFP spokeswoman, Bettina Luescher, told a news briefing.
“Our experts are warning it could go as high as 5.5 million people by next month,” she said. “The drop in oil prices and sharp rise in the cost of imported staples has compounded the years of violence that these poor people had to suffer.”
WFP has delivered food to 170,000 people in North-eastern Nigeria, but hopes to reach 700,000 by year-end, Luescher said.
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