Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is challenging U.N. and humanitarian aid organizations on their recent reports of near-starvation among states affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.
According to the President, the reports are “hype” – exaggerating the humanitarian crisis in order to encourage more donations.
The Nigerian leader’s dispute with the U.N. recalls former president Goodluck Jonathan who initially disputed reports of missing girls from their school in Chibok. As a consequence, searches for the girls were delayed and many are still at large in kidnappers’ hands.
Now, according to the U.N., 5.1 million people are likely to face serious food shortages by 2017 if more aid to the north-east of the country does not arrive.
Peter Lundberg, the deputy humanitarian coordinator for the UN in Nigeria, described the crisis as the worst on the African continent, appealing that without more aid, the situation is set to worsen.
“The narrative on this humanitarian crisis can no longer be ignored,” said Lundberg in an appeal for a $1 billion humanitarian response plan. “We are appealing to the international community to help us prevent the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians over the coming 12 months.”
Unicef, a UN agency providing humanitarian aid for children and mothers in Nigeria, also estimates that about 400,000 children under five will suffer from severe malnutrition in the country this year, with more than 65,000 people living in famine-like conditions.
But Nigeria’s president has dismissed their dire reports. “We are concerned about the blatant attempts to whip up a non-existent fear of mass starvation by some aid agencies, a type of hype that does not provide a solution to the situation on the ground but has more to do with calculations for operations financing locally and abroad,” Buhari said.
Further, such horrific predictions give the impression that the Nigerian government is incapable of dealing with the humanitarian crisis.
While the UN had done an “immeasurable amount” in helping the relief effort, “we do not, however, see the reason for the claims being made to draw donor support by some of the aid agencies,” he said.
Meanwhile, in a moving photo by photographer Chika Oduah, the picture caption read: “Widespread malnutrition affects thousands of children in northeastern Nigeria, where Boko Haram violence has disrupted farming and trade, in Maiduguri, Nigeria, October 2016. Pix by Chika Oduah