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World Humanitarian Day: UN pays tribute to aid workers in North East

Today on the occasion of World Humanitarian Day, the humanitarian community in north-east Nigeria honors all aid workers stepping up to respond each day to the crisis in the region by providing life-saving assistance to millions of women, children and men.

This year’s theme #ItTakesAVillage is built upon the metaphor, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ At an event commemorating World Humanitarian Day today in Maiduguri Mr. Matthias Schmale, United Nations (UN) Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria stated, “Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a whole community to help people in need; to provide urgent health care, shelter, food, protection, transportation, security, water and much more.”

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He noted that the humanitarian ‘village’ in north-east Nigeria proudly includes volunteers and paid staff from civil society, national and international NGOs, government, the United Nations and crisis-affected people themselves. The vast majority of aid workers in Nigeria – including those who are exposed to the most risk – are Nigerians.

“Despite the many challenges in this crisis, we should all be immensely proud of the impact humanitarians have in north-east Nigeria. Through our combined effort our humanitarian ‘village’ delivered assistance to five million people last year. That assistance saved countless lives, improved living conditions, and protected the most vulnerable people,” said Mr. Schmale. Part of this assistance continues to be empowering affected people as part of this village to help themselves.

World Humanitarian Day also advocates for the safety and security of aid workers, who often work in volatile and unpredictable environments. Since 2016, 35 aid workers have been killed in north-east Nigeria, according to the Aid Worker Security Database (AWSD). Twenty-two have been wounded and 28 kidnapped. So far in 2022, six aid workers have been kidnapped and one has been killed in the region (AWSD). Globally, in 2021 some 460 aid workers were victims in 267 major attacks: 140 aid workers were killed, 203 seriously injured and 117 kidnapped. This marks the highest number of aid worker fatalities recorded since 2013, according to Humanitarian Outcomes.

The humanitarian crisis has continued unabated in north-east Nigeria, with 8.4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance this year, according to the 2022 Humanitarian Needs Overview. The deteriorating food security and nutrition situation is one of the most concerning areas of this crisis. For children across north-east Nigeria, the nutritional situation grows increasingly troubling. Approximately 1.74 million children under five are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition across the north-east in 2022. Levels of acute malnutrition in Borno and Yobe States are the highest recorded since 2016, and severe acute malnutrition admissions in nutrition treatment centres are at the highest levels since surveillance started in 2017.

After visiting a nutrition stabilisation centre in Damaturo and an MSF Hospital in Maiduguri, Mr Schmale noted that the “rising number of children being admitted to these and other facilities is deeply troubling. We cannot allow children to suffer and some dying because they do not get enough to eat.”

Mr. Schmale highlighted that, “As we celebrate this day, we must remember that 4.1 million people across the north-east are facing hunger, trying to cope with its dangerous repercussions. We must put them, and all crisis-affected people, at the center of World Humanitarian Day.”

The 4.1 million is a projection from the March 2022 Cadre Harmonisé (a joint food security assessment) of the number of people who will face food insecurity at crisis levels this lean season, not knowing when or where their next meal will come from. Among those, an estimated 600,000 are projected to be at emergency levels. For an already vulnerable population, this puts their very survival at risk.

To respond to these and other urgent needs, the humanitarian community in north-east Nigeria works jointly as one ‘village,’ taking collective to get help where it’s needed most.

The UN and its partners aim to assist 5.5 million people through the 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan, and funding is urgently needed. The plan appealed for USD$1.1 billion but is currently only 27 per cent funded.

About World Humanitarian Day

In 2008, the United Nations General Assembly designated 19 August as World Humanitarian Day to raise awareness about humanitarian assistance worldwide and to pay tribute to the people who risk their lives to provide it. World Humanitarian Day was commemorated for the first time on 19 August 2009.

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