By Wahab Akanji, Abuja
Presidency has dismissed reports by some aid agencies that a good number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the North-Eastern part of Nigeria might die due to mass starvation.
Malam Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President, dismissed the reports in a statement issued in Abuja on Sunday.
Shehu described as unacceptable the reports by the agencies that a million people would die as a result of starvation in Nigeria in 2017.
He cited one arm of the United Nations which “screamed that 100,000 people will die due to starvation next year while a different group says a million will die’’.
According to him, the Federal Government is concerned about these blatant attempts to whip up a nonexistent fear of mass starvation by the aid agencies, a type of hype that does not provide solution to the situation on the ground “but more to do with calculations for operations financing locally and abroad’’.
He said that President Buhari, since his assumption of office, had fully mobilised state mechanisms to deal with all the challenges facing the people, particularly the IDPs, adding that “this needs to be appreciated’’.
He noted that the affected states with active collaboration with NEMA and the recently inaugurated Presidential Committee on North-East Initiative (PCNI), were deeply involved in efforts to cushion the humanitarian challenges especially on food security and nutrition.
According to the Presidential aide, through an ongoing arrangement, NEMA provides raw foodstuff to IDPs at formal camps, self-settled centres, host communities and satellite centres.
He said that beyond the IDPs camps, government agencies had been distributing food in host communities while the “T.Y Danjuma-led PCNI is currently doing this in Borno.
“In addition to the supply of food, the Federal Government through NEMA and the PCNI has made the provision of drugs to some major hospitals in the zone a priority.
“These agencies have also been deploying on continuous basis, medical teams and equipment to the North-East to support the provision of medi-care to the IDPs.
“There are also search and rescue vehicles in service in the region as well the deployment of a revolving fund at major hospitals in Maiduguri and Yola to ensure full treatment of victims of insurgents’ attacks and sick IDPs.
“Government has also been providing skills and empowerment equipment to IDPs side by side with education for children in camps and the U.N. Safe Schools Initiative (SSI).’’
While noting that the humanitarian situation in the North-East is already complex and challenging, Shehu acknowledged the recent successes by the Nigerian military against the terrorists.
He stated that this had come with it the releases of thousands of people held against their wish in the forests.
“The captives come to government camps famished, ragged, poorly nourished and mostly ill, released from the hunger and acute shortages of basic necessities of life on account of the effective sieges of Sambisa forest by the military,’’ he said.
The Presidential spokesman, however, expressed Nigeria’s appreciation for the increasing humanitarian assistance which continued to complement the efforts of the federal and state governments in the Northeast region.
“So, while local and international humanitarian responders including the United Nations have done an immeasurable amount of effort filling in the gaps wherever they existed, it is not true as these reports have indicated that 100,000 or even a million people will die because government is unable to provide care at the camps.
“This country has a responsible government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, which is doing a lot to bring relief to the displaced people,” he said.
He reassured that the Nigerian Government which had been making the most efforts in the entire endeavor would continue to work closely with the local and international response groups to overcome this humanitarian crisis.
“At this time when the focus is gradually shifting toward rehabilitation, reconstruction, resettlement, recovery and the dignified return of IDPs back home, we can do with all the support out there in the donor community.
“We do not, however, see the reason for the theories and hyperbolic claims being made ostensibly to draw donor support by some of the aid agencies.
“The situation on the ground, as it exists, provides sufficient motivation to all well-meaning donors to come and do a decent part.
“The hype, especially that which suggests that the government is doing nothing is therefore uncharitable and unnecessary.
Presidency dismisses reports on starvation in North-East
By Wahab Akanji, Abuja