United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Matthias Schmale, emphasised the imperative need for continuous backing to address the escalating humanitarian crisis in northeast Nigeria. Speaking at a news conference in New York, Schmale stressed, “We are part of the global trend in Nigeria of increasing humanitarian needs, with funding not holding up to that.”
During his visit to the United States, Schmale engaged in discussions in Washington, D.C., aiming to garner support and close the funding gap. He met with various officials, stating, “I’ve spent two days with my colleague in United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Washington to try and drum up support to get the funding gap closed.”
Highlighting the dire situation in northeastern Nigeria, Schmale underscored the urgency of international support and reinforced partnerships to address humanitarian needs. “We’re trying to make sure that 700,000 malnourished children severely malnourished kids get the food they need and the protection they need,” he emphasised.
Despite persistent efforts, the funding for the humanitarian response plan has remained low, substantially below the required levels. Schmale lamented, “The Humanitarian Response Plan 2023 remains significantly low at roughly a bit over a third of what the organisation needed.”
Expressing concerns over the enduring crisis in northeast Nigeria due to ongoing non-international armed conflict, Schmale acknowledged, “More than eight million people remain in need of assistance.” He further added, “We will soon launch the humanitarian response plan for next year and we aim to reach five million that are in need of assistance.”
Emphasising the multifaceted nature of the crisis, Schmale addressed the protection aspect, stating, “The situation in the northeast is a protection crisis.” He advocated for sustained UN involvement in supporting the Nigerian government to safeguard vulnerable populations, particularly women and girls.
Moreover, Schmale connected the humanitarian work to prevention strategies against violent extremism. “We see the investment into the humanitarian work there as prevention, preventing the violent extremism from spreading further,” he explained. He expressed concern about the potential spill-over effect from neighbouring countries like Niger and the broader Sahel region.
Despite the challenges, Schmale commended Nigeria’s stability amidst regional uncertainties. “Nigeria remains a stable country, a democratic country, and we owe it to them to recognise that and to partner up with them,” he remarked.
On the domestic front, Schmale commended President Bola Tinubu’s administration for its initiatives in addressing the crisis. He applauded the launch of the Presidential Humanitarian Trust Fund, highlighting its potential to respond to humanitarian situations promptly.
Touching upon the security situation in the Northeast, Schmale acknowledged the Nigerian military’s success against Boko Haram but raised concerns about the group’s shift towards targeting civilians, resulting in increased violence and unpredictability.
He also highlighted the threat of extremist influences spreading from Niger to northeast Nigeria, stating, “For the UN, I think it’s fair to say the influence of violent extremist groups remains of grave concern.”
Schmale emphasised the necessity for sustained international support, efficient resource allocation, and strengthened partnerships to address the burgeoning humanitarian needs and combat violent extremism in Nigeria’s northeast region.