In July, the execution of five civilians in Borno State, among whom three aid workers, sent shock waves throughout the humanitarian community. The UN Secretary-General and the Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria vehemently condemned the killings and reiterated calls that humanitarians and civilians should never be targeted and should be protected at all times. Their lives, and the lives of all humanitarians who were killed in the line of service, were commemorated and honored on World Humanitarian Day on 19 August, under the theme “Real Life Heroes”. On this occasion, people across Nigeria paid tribute to aid workers on the frontlines, including health workers and community volunteers who steadfastly continue to deliver support to those in need amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Insecurity along roads is a grave concern for the safety of aid workers and civilians, particularly as non-state armed groups increasingly set up illegal vehicular checkpoints (ICVPs) along main supply routes. In July, a total of 14 ICVP incidents were recorded, mainly in Borno State, up from a five such incidents in June. In August, the trend increased even further with 16 incidents recorded over the month. This concerning trend not only presents risks for aid workers and other civilians of being abducted or killed, but also impedes the delivery of life-saving assistance.
The ongoing rainy season is also constraining the transport of relief items, as heavy rains and subsequent flooding across Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (BAY) states are exacerbating road conditions and key supply routes are nearly impassable. Furthermore, heavy rainfalls have affected tens of thousands of civilians, mostly internally displaced persons, living in camps and camp-like settings across the BAY states. In July and August, heavy rainfalls and floods affected nearly 100,000 people (20,935 households) across the operational areas and humanitarians promptly pumped out water and provided sandbags, emergency shelter repair kits and other urgent relief items.
The rainy season also poses additional risks for the outbreak of endemic diseases like malaria and cholera, and humanitarian organizations combined awareness-raising and prevention with continued efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Partners continued to raise awareness on disease outbreaks and hygiene measures to prevent COVID-19, as well as promoted proper hygiene in camps and host communities.
Overcrowding in camps and camp-like settings also increases the risks of disease outbreaks, and the humanitarian community continues to advocate for the decongestion of IDP camps. A decongestion strategy is under development by the CCCM and shelter sectors in order to expand IDP camps and build additional shelters to mitigate risks.
While partners are advocating for the decongestion of camps, the Borno State Government urged the Borno State Task Force on the Return of Refugees and IDPs to accelerate the process to resettle IDPs in early August, with hopes to relocate all IDPs from Maiduguri to their Local Government Areas of origin by May 2021. On 10 August, the Borno State Government resettled 500 IDPs in Monguno to their area of origin in Kukawa LGA. Humanitarian partners, who are not currently on ground in Kukawa, were however not engaged in the process and there are concerns many IDP returnees in Kukawa are left without basic assistance or protection services, raising concerns whether the conditions for IDPs are conducive to allow for resettlement. Humanitarian partners are continuing to advocate for all returns to be in line with the Kampala Convention and for the conditions to allow for safe, voluntary and dignified returns.
Humanitarian partners continue to deliver assistance despite additional challenges posed by COVID-19, heightened insecurity and access constraints. Funding for the Humanitarian Response Plan 2020 is however at a historic low. As of end of August, only 33 per cent of the total $1.08 billion funding appeal to provide life-saving assistance for 7.8 million people had been received. A high-level online event “North-east Nigeria: Act Now, Avert the Worst” was held on 13 August to raise awareness of the worsening humanitarian crisis in the north-east. For this high-level briefing, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr Edward Kallon, was joined by the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajiya Sadiya Umar Farouq and Borno State Governor, Prof Babagana Zulum, as well as other UN and NGO representatives. Together the panel stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates the dire humanitarian situation in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states, and risks wreaking havoc on the most vulnerable population. The high-level event also called on urgent funding to avoid reversing progress made since the joint humanitarian response started in 2015.