The aid group Doctors Without Borders says the Boko Haram conflict is blocking aid workers from reaching more than 1.2 million Nigerians.
The group reports that the population of northeast Nigeria is victim to all sides in the conflict. The fight has been going on for 11 years.
The Nigerian military says it has the upper hand over the Islamist extremists. But Doctors Without Borders and United Nations agencies say the humanitarian situation is still urgent, especially in Borno state.
Luis Eguiluz has led the agency’s work in Nigeria for the past two years. He says the two main Boko Haram groups and the government are restricting movement.
He says people are subject to attacks, kidnappings, abuse and mistreatment. Women and girls are victims of rape and other forms of sexual assault.
He adds, "We are talking about one of the most or biggest humanitarian crises of the last decades. Seven-point-one million people in need are dependent on humanitarian assistance for survival. They depend upon the most basic needs and services; food, water, health, shelter.”
Eguiluz says humanitarian workers still are able to reach the majority of the needy.
But he told VOA that Doctors Without Borders and other agencies have no access to the 1.2 million people living in areas controlled by Boko Haram.
The United Nations reports these Nigerians live in 22 areas in Borno state.
Eguiluz says the Nigerian army does not permit humanitarian agencies to go to these areas because this would be in violation of international counterterrorism laws.
He adds, "These counterterrorism laws prevent humanitarian actors to negotiate with all actors, parties in conflict because they are considered terrorists."
Eguiluz notes these laws are preventing access because negotiating with armed groups is considered a crime.
Doctors Without Borders is calling on the Nigerian government to honor international humanitarian law over international counterterrorism laws. Eguiluz says this would enable humanitarian agencies to get access to the 1.2 million Nigerians in serious need of aid.
I’m Jonathan Evans.
Lisa Schlein reported on this story for VOANews. Jonathan Evans adapted this story for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Words in This Story
access – n. the right or ability to approach, enter, or use
counterterrorism – n. actions by a group, army, etc., that are done to prevent terrorist attacks and destroy terrorist networks
decade – n. a period of 10 years
upper hand – n. mastery; advantage; control