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Famine

Oxfam's Byanyima 'not happy' with international response to Nigerian food crisis

Over 4.7 million people in northeast Nigeria are in dire need of basic amenities like food, water and shelter, says Oxfam. A delegation has been on a fact-finding visit to the region.

According to international aid agency Oxfam, at least 4.7 million people in northeastern Nigeria are currently in dire need of basic amenities like food, water and shelter. On a visit to the region, Oxfam's executive director Winnie Byanyima called on the international community to match its words with action and address the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

The situation in northeastern Nigeria, which is a stronghold of Boko Haram jihadists, has been described by the United Nations as "the largest crisis on the African continent." 

Thousands of people, mostly children, are believed to have died of hunger and malnutrition.

Oxfam's Executive Director Winnie Byanyima (COP PARIS)

Winnie Byanyima is Oxfam's Executive Director

Speaking to DW, Byanyima said the region was on the brink of famine. "If action is not taken now, we could see millions of people move into the famine category. So I'm here to push decision-makers to avert a catastrophic loss of life," she said.

Byanyima said that more could and should have been done earlier.

"I have to admit that we have come in late, we could have come in earlier, this was a slow onset crisis," she said, adding that she was disappointed that resources pledged had still not arrived. "I'm not happy about the United Nations and the coordinating role it should play for all of us. We can do better than this. These people deserve better," she said. 

Human rights abuses also on increase

As the situation worsens, cases of human rights abuses in the camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) are also on the increase. During their visit, members of the Oxfam delegation were in Kushari, Gwoza and Jakana where they met girls and young women who are part of a training program for monitoring threats and human rights abuses in their community.

Maryam Muhammad Ali has been conducting research and reporting rights abuses to humanitarian organizations in Maiduguri. She told DW that she and others were "like ambassadors to women in our community. There are a lot of cases of human rights abuses like rape, denying women their rights, and child labor, and the victims are afraid to speak out. We are conducting research, talking to the victims and reporting what we find to agencies to take action."

Oxfam has called on the international community to support the efforts of a number of non-governmental organizations in northeastern Nigeria to get sufficient food and other relief materials into the region to meet the needs of the people.