The United Nations on Thursday said Aid agencies have just 18 months to deal with the fall-out from the Boko Haram conflict or Nigeria could face the consequences for years to come.
The world body’s humanitarian coordinator in the country, Edward Kallon, said there was a “very short window of opportunity” to address the aftermath of the insurgency, which began in 2009.
“We have to put out the fire in 18 months in northeast Nigeria. If we don’t succeed in putting out the fire in 18 months, the situation will become protracted and chronic,” said Kallon.
He told reporters in Abuja that a lack of cash hindered assistance last year, even though aid agencies ramped up operations, and “immediate funding” was needed.
Kallon said of particular concern are the hundreds of thousands of people forced into camps and to stay with relatives and friends across the northeast.
The Federal Government has said it wants to close the camps and return many of the internally displaced to their home towns and villages as soon as possible.
Kallon said more than one million have gone back since August 2015, But there have been concerns about what awaits them, with homes and businesses destroyed, and basic services and infrastructure lacking because of the fighting.
The World Food Programme has highlighted “famine-like” conditions and there have been warnings that 450,000 children face severe acute malnutrition this year if nothing is done.
A conference is being held in Norway’s capital, Oslo, next week to attract donors for programmes in Nigeria and Cameroon, Chad and Niger, which have also been hit by the violence.
The UN this year wants to raise more than $1 billion (941 million euros) to provide food, shelter, healthcare and education, after a disappointing 2016 which saw only 53 percent of funding met.
Another shortfall “will expose vulnerable children, women, girls and youths to risks the country may fail to deal with in the future”, said Kallon.
He added there was no quick-fix to helping the displaced, noting that some cases elsewhere in the world can take 10 years or longer to rehabilitate.
The UN had also said that the destructive insurgency group is currently plagued by financial difficulties.
According to the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jefferey Feltman, Boko Haram was under intense military pressure but warned against undermining its capacity to launch fatal attacks.
“ISIL-affiliate Boko Haram is attempting to spread its influence and commit terrorist acts beyond Nigeria. And Boko Haram remains a serious threat, with several thousand others at its disposal. “It is, however, plagued by financial difficulties and an internal power struggle, and has split into two factions,” Feltman said.