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Focus on famine: Situation not 'unsolvable'

United Nations warns that more than five million people in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe are facing a food emergency.

Women and young girls wash clothes while others collect water in one of the hosting communities for internally displaced people in Maiduguri, Nigeria. Women and children have suffered most from the Boko Haram insurgency. Many of them are suffering from food insecurity and a lack of clean water and medical care.

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Women and young girls wash clothes while others collect water in one of the hosting communities for internally displaced people in Maiduguri, Nigeria. Women and children have suffered most from the Boko Haram insurgency. Many of them are suffering from food insecurity and a lack of clean water and medical care.

The trip was meant to instill some hope in an otherwise dire environment. Instead, it left Nene Akinten with serious concerns about the future.

“It was a very bad situation, but I could tell it was going to get worse,” said Akinten, an Oakville resident originally from Nigeria.

Last year she teamed up with members of Relief International Nigeria Women in Diaspora to collect donations for the country’s internally displaced people. With her three kids and a few other members, they visited four camps and spent days tutoring children and interacting with people who had fled both the Boko Haram violence and starvation.

More from Metro's Focus on Famine series:

It was a “gloomy” experience, said Akinten. Malnutrition was rampant. Subsisting on donations, no one could afford three meals a day. She heard people were already dying from lack of food in the northeastern states.

A year later, her fears have been confirmed. The United Nations has warned over five million people in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe face a food emergency, and famine could break out by June.

Nene Akinten, centre in green, visited four camps last year as part of an effort to help those affected by food shortages in northeast Nigeria.

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Nene Akinten, centre in green, visited four camps last year as part of an effort to help those affected by food shortages in northeast Nigeria.

Insecurity is a big part of the problem, as close to two million residents have been forced out of their households and can no longer work on farming.

“If you don’t die from hunger then these Boko Haram people will kill you. It’s crazy,” said Mustapha Daodu, an Edmonton-based reggae musician. Some of his family members still live in Borno, and he regularly sends money to support them.“I’m really worried this whole famine will spread to the rest of the country very soon,” he added.

Katherine Clark, who recently returned from a four-month assignment with Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in northeast Nigeria, said the conflict has damaged infrastructure and made it difficult for people to access humanitarian aid.

“These aren’t unsolvable problems,” she said of the malnutrition and poor hygiene in camps. “People are healthy again after they’re assisted. I don’t think anybody should really go hungry in the world today.”

How You Can Help:

  • The Relief International Nigerian Women in Diaspora continues to coordinate relief efforts for those affected by the food shortage situation. Contact akintanfamily@gmail.com for further information.
  • MSF-Canada provides medical and humanitarian assistance to people in the four states and other parts of northern Nigeria. To get involved or donate, visit msf.ca
  • Action Against Hunger runs emergency food and nutrition programs in northern Nigeria and other countries facing famine. More info at actioncontrelafaim.ca

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