The United Nations warned on Tuesday that 75,000 children risk dying in “a few months” in Nigeria, Africa’s largest producer of cereals and grains, as hunger grips the country’s ravaged north-east in the wake of the Boko Haram insurgency.
No one knows how many more children are dying of starvation in refugee camps and areas too dangerous to access because of the extremists’ presence, Doctors Without Borders, which runs the emergency feeding center. The aid group first sounded the alarm of a humanitarian crisis of “catastrophic” proportion in northeast Nigeria as Boko Haram lost its grip on some areas and its victims began to emerge, according to an AP report.
“These are kids that basically have been hungry all their lives, and some are so far gone that they die here in the first 24 hours,” said Jean Stowell, an American midwife in charge of the center in Maiduguri, the biggest city in this largely Muslim region. The 110-bed center has quadrupled in size in recent weeks, but each time it expands it rapidly fills.
Nearly a quarter of a million children are severely malnourished because Boko Haram has disrupted trade and farming, U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Toby Lanzer warned at a meeting in Brussels on Thursday. About 2 million people in the region have not been reached, “and we can’t assess their situation. We can estimate that it’s awful.”
Meanwhile, the Nigerian presidency said the country risks famine from early next year following a huge demand in the global market targeting the country’s surplus production.
“Huge demand for our grains in the global market is creating an excellent environment for the mindless export of Nigerian grains across our borders and unless this is curtailed, Nigerian markets will be bereft of food by January next year. Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu said.