475 000 chil­dren at risk in Lake Chad area

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Worldwide -

NEARLY half a mil­lion chil­dren around Lake Chad face “se­vere acute mal­nu­tri­tion” due to drought and a seven-year vi­o­lent cam­paign by the armed group Boko Haram in north­east­ern Nige­ria, Unicef has warned.

Of the 475 000 deemed at risk, 49 000 in Nige­ria’s Borno state, Boko Haram’s heart­land, will die this year if they do not re­ceive treat­ment, the UN chil­dren’s agency said yes­ter­day.

At the start of 2015, Boko Haram oc­cu­pied an area the size of Bel­gium but has since been pushed back af­ter Nige­ria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon formed a coali­tion along with Benin to fight the group.

Most of its re­main­ing forces are now hid­ing in­side the vast Sam­bisa for­est, south­east of the Borno provin­cial cap­i­tal, Maiduguri.

Unicef said that as Nigerian gov­ern­ment forces cap­tured and se­cured ter­ri­tory, aid of­fi­cials were start­ing to piece to­gether the scale of the hu­man­i­tar­ian dis­as­ter left be­hind in the group’s wake.

“Towns and vil­lages are in ru­ins and com­mu­ni­ties have no ac­cess to ba­sic ser­vices,” Unicef said in a re­port.

In Borno, nearly two thirds of hos­pi­tals and clin­ics had been par­tially or com­pletely de­stroyed and three-quar­ters of wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion fa­cil­i­ties needed to be re­ha­bil­i­tated.

De­spite the mil­i­tary gains, Unicef said, 2.2 mil­lion peo­ple re­main trapped in ar­eas un­der the con­trol of Boko Haram or are stay­ing in camps, fear­ful of go­ing home. — AFP

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