Maiduguri: A humanitarian hub deep in Boko Haram territory
Mangoes and watermelons, prayer mats and Chinesemade utensils are again filling the stalls of Maiduguri’s markets, as they recover after years of Boko Haram violence. Traders sweating behind wheelbarrows overloaded with goods fight their way through the crowded alleyways in northeast Nigeria’s biggest city. But in the birthplace of Boko Haram, appearances are often deceptive.
The eight-year insurgency has brought the Borno state capital to its knees, after centuries as a commercial crossroads between the Sahel and central Africa. The historic trading hub has been transformed into a centre of humanitarian aid. Life runs according to the rhythm of the aid agencies that have flocked there in the last year. But Modu Kolo Dunoma, the head of the Monday Market-the city’s biggest and a frequent target for Boko Haram’s bombs and bombers-told AFP: “We face a difficult situation.
“Farmers still can’t go back to their farms and most of the food items are imported from other states. Prices have really gone up.” A sack of rice that once sold for 8,000 naira ($25, 22 euros) now goes for 17,000 naira as a result of food shortages, spiralling inflation and an economy in recession. “People just can’t afford to buy food,” said Dunoma.
On the edge of the city, neverending lines of lorries spend days waiting to take their cargoes to Dikwa and beyond to neighboring Cameroon. Maiduguri’s main source of revenue-the transport of goods to land-locked countries such as Chad, Central African Republic and Sudan-is struggling to take off again.
The army has reopened some main roads but ambushes still happen frequently and vehicles are not allowed to travel without a heavily armed military escort. Maiduguri’s needs remain huge, however, with the population having doubled since 2009, as more than one million people sought safe haven from Boko Haram attacks. Confined to camps or living among the local population, they survive on external aid.
According to the United Nations, nearly two million people in the northeast region are currently suffering from severe acute malnutrition and 5.5 million are in need of food aid. The international community belatedly realized the scale of the humanitarian crisis in northeast Nigeria and most of the NGOs now in Maiduguri only arrived from mid-2016. —AFP
MAIDUGURI: This file photo taken on July 4, 2017 shows a man looking at potatoes displayed on a stall at the Monday-Market, one of the biggest markets.