Over the past year, I have watched with growing concern the deteriorating humanitarian situation
in Borno. Ten years of conflict and violence perpetrated by Boko Haram and other non-state
armed groups have devastated communities. In my visits to Borno in September 2017 and
October 2018, I met many of the ordinary people who have been the victims of this crisis. More
than 7 million people currently need humanitarian assistance in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe
Thanks to the successful efforts of the Nigerian authorities and others between 2016 and 2018 to
regain control of areas previously ravaged by the insurgents, more than 2 million displaced
people have been able to return home. But renewed violence, most of it perpetrated by Boko
Haram insurgents, has sparked an upsurge in forced displacement in Borno, with more than
140,000 people forced to move this year alone. Many farmers have missed multiple planting
seasons and more than 3 million people are food insecure.
I am clear that military and security measures against the insurgents are a necessary and
legitimate part of the response led by the Nigerian authorities. Military action needs to be
proportionate and avoid adding to the plight of civilians, huge numbers of whom have suffered
terribly as a result of the actions of the terrorists and insurgents.
And military action on its own will not solve this problem. It is therefore extremely important
that the Nigerian Government, including through institutions like the North East Development
Commission, is also implementing wider measures to address the root causes of the crisis, relieve
humanitarian suffering, and promote stabilisation, recovery and development. I strongly support
I am glad to have had the opportunity during my visit this week to review the situation with
senior figures in the Nigerian Government, with the military and other authorities in Borno, with
international, national and local NGOs, and others. With everyone I have met, I have agreed that NGOs – through their rich networks and capacity to reach people, and their expertise and
experience in operating at the community level – have a very important role to play.
The UN and humanitarian partners have supported the humanitarian response in north-east
Nigeria since the beginning of the crisis. In 2019, they have so far provided critical and lifesaving assistance to more than 3.8 million people. They have been operating in the most
challenging circumstances. A total of 38 UN and NGO workers, most of them Nigerian, have
been killed since 2011. Ten aid workers have died as a result of violence perpetrated by Boko
Haram and other non-state armed groups in the past 18 months. Six more are still missing.
All humanitarian organizations working in Nigeria which receive support from the international
community operate in full compliance with international standards, including counter-terrorism
related conditions, national laws, and humanitarian principles. Operating in that way is not only a
matter of principle but is also required as a practical condition of funding from the major donors.
And it is important to recognise that all the international NGOs working in the north-east are
authorised to do so through the Government registration process and local approvals from the
I have received assurances from the relevant authorities that the suspension of the activities of
Mercy Corps and Action Against Hunger announced in September will be lifted in the next few
days. That should allow an immediate resumption of life-saving assistance to nearly 400,000
people who have been without food and other essential help for the last month. The Government
also plans in the next fortnight to bring together all the relevant stakeholders, including the UN
and NGOs, to discuss the shared challenges in Borno. I greatly welcome all this. An enhanced
dialogue between the Government and the international community, including international
NGOs, in pursuit of the shared goals of bringing peace, promoting recovery, and assisting and
protecting innocent civilians in the north-east who have been the main victims of the conflict is
in everyone’s interest. The UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. Edward Kallon, and his team
based in Nigeria remain at the disposal of the Government and others in support of those goals.