Starv­ing for re­lief from Boko Haram

African Independent - - OUTLOOK -

into the state cap­i­tal, Maiduguri, have be­come huge in­tern­ment cen­tres.

Food sup­plies from the mea­gre har­vests in ar­eas less af­fected by the con­flict, and re­lief ma­te­ri­als do­nated by in­ter­na­tional and lo­cal aid or­gan­i­sa­tions, fall woe­fully short of the needs of the dis­placed pop­u­la­tion.

As though the prob­lems posed by the short­ages are not bad enough, the dis­tri­bu­tion of re­lief ma­te­rial is fraught with al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion, mis­man­age­ment, fraud, and out­right theft by govern­ment of­fi­cials.

And rather than con­duct­ing trans­par­ent in­ves­ti­ga­tions and ad­dress­ing the prob­lems, the fed­eral and state au­thor­i­ties in charge of the camps have is­sued blan­ket and vague de­nials.

In July, a state of­fi­cial in Maiduguri told me that she could not dis­cuss the food sup­ply for dis­placed peo­ple be­cause the govern­ment had de­clared the is­sue a “state se­cret”.

That re­sponse echoes the Na­tional Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency’s de­nial of a Médecins Sans Fron­tières re­port high­light­ing the health cri­sis in June among the dis­placed in the town of Bama, where it said up to 30 peo­ple were dy­ing daily from hunger and dis­ease.

The head of the emer­gency agency, the fed­eral body re­spon­si­ble for re­spond­ing to in­ter­nal crises, ac­cused Médecins Sans Fron­tières of us­ing the re­port as a ploy to at­tract donor fund­ing.

It was there­fore grat­i­fy­ing to see the fed­eral govern­ment re­spond quickly and pos­i­tively to a Hu­man Rights Watch re­port that de­tailed the sex­ual ex­ploita­tion and abuse of dis­placed women and girls by govern­ment of­fi­cials. Po­lice and in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cers were swiftly de­ployed to in­ves­ti­gate.

This re­sponse should set the tone for im­proved con­duct by all of­fi­cials tasked with pro­tect­ing and sup­port­ing dis­placed peo­ple. It presents a great op­por­tu­nity to in­sti­tu­tion­alise re­forms in the vet­ting and train­ing of staff.

Aid pro­gram­ming must in­clude gen­der and hu­man rights aware­ness, and al­low for the thor­ough mon­i­tor­ing and in­ves­ti­ga­tion of abuse and mis­con­duct, in­clud­ing in food dis­tri­bu­tion.

There is still a long way to go. The lat­est news from Maiduguri is that the state au­thor­i­ties – ap­par­ently un­happy about the neg­a­tive pub­lic­ity that fol­lowed the sex­ual abuse re­port – have tight­ened re­stric­tions around the camps.

Rather than en­cour­ag­ing the pro­tec­tion of the rights of the dis­placed, the au­thor­i­ties have pre­sented lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional aid providers with new re­quire­ments for their con­tin­ued op­er­a­tions in Borno.

Nige­ria is Africa’s rich­est coun­try, but it needs all the help it can muster to sur­mount the scale of this hu­man­i­tar­ian tragedy. An in­ter­na­tional aid ap­peal for $488 mil­lion is only 37 per­cent funded.

The peo­ple whose lives de­pend on this aid have a right to de­mand a more hon­est and ro­bust re­sponse when con­cerns are raised over the mis­man­age­ment of re­lief. Trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity must be non-ne­go­tiable.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.