In 2019, at least 600 people were killed during renewed fighting between security forces and Boko Haram factions. The ongoing conflict continues to trigger new displacement, deepening humanitarian needs and protection-related concerns, according to a report released by the Human Rights Watch.
In Borno State, the epicenter of the crisis, 23 out of 27 Local Government Areas (LGAs) are in severe need of humanitarian assistance, according to a joint message presented by the humanitarian community, including the United Nations, international nongovernmental organizations, and civil society organizations, to representatives of the Borno State government. By their estimates, 19 LGAs, including Bama, Gwoza, Kala Balge, Moba, and Monguno, are facing “extreme severity” with Kala Balge at the top of the list. Kala Balge is reported to have entered phase four of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), which global organizations, including the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, have created for food security and humanitarian analysis. Phase four features severe lack of food access with excess mortality, very high and increasing malnutrition, and irreversible loss of livelihood resources.
The four others are reported to be in IPC phase three, featuring highly stressed and critical lack of food access with high and above usual malnutrition and fast depleting livelihood resources. There are reported disease outbreaks and protection issues related to security incidents, including missing children, psychosocial – mental health – distress, abductions or disappearances, restrictions on freedom of movement, and forced displacement.
Aid agencies cannot reach an estimated 1.2 million people, a 30 percent increase since 2018, according to Edward Kallon, the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria. In terms of territory, 85 percent of Borno State is considered inaccessible by humanitarian agencies, with four LGAs completely inaccessible. Access to seven others is limited to the perimeter of one or two towns, reachable only by helicopter. Access to rural populations is limited to a few areas around Maiduguri, along some main roads, and in the southern part of the state.
According to UNOCHA, nutrition screenings in reception centers for those arriving from inaccessible areas reveal that the nutrition situation of children in these areas is significantly worse than that of children in areas currently receiving assistance. Kallon has said that preserving humanitarian access to vulnerable communities presents the most critical challenge in the northeast humanitarian response.
The situation is due to several factors, including the way the military has restricted assistance to the garrison towns under their control, the limited ability of organizations to negotiate expanded access, and restrictions humanitarian agencies have placed on themselves following recent targeted attacks, including abductions and executions of humanitarian workers.