by ARIEL HARSINAY
In Nigeria, roughly 2.6 million Nigerians have been displaced since Boko Haram, a militant Islamic extremist group, began to attack northeastern Nigeria in 2009. These displaced individuals have found themselves fleeing to Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and Maiduguri among other countries in Africa. In these four countries, it is estimated that about 480,000 children are suffering from malnutrition (NPR, 2017). Over 13 million people in Nigeria alone are suffering from hunger on a daily basis.
Boko Haram promotes a version of Islam that forbids any of their people from participating in any activities that are associated with Western society and values (BBC, 2016). They began to launch military operations in 2009 to convert Nigeria into an Islamist state, but most of the captured territory has been reclaimed by the Nigerian army. The army has also freed many of the Nigerians who were held captive by the terrorist organization. However, Boko Haram still has roughly 2,000 children in captivity and continues to make a presence in surrounding states. Despite the fact that the Nigerian army is taking action against Boko Haram, the population of Nigeria has already greatly suffered and many of the affected individuals are continuing to live in hunger and poverty. Many Nigerian men have been killed in the conflict, leaving their wives and children alone to fend for themselves.
Doctors Without Borders has decided to take action towards this hunger crisis. While providing medical assistance to Nigerians, they have also begun to provide food to handle the malnutrition epidemic. There is a standard medical assessment in place to deduce if a child is malnourished: doctors simply measure the circumference of the child’s upper arm. If the measurement is less than 4.5 inches, the doctors hospitalize the child and feed them a therapeutic milk that is rich in protein, sodium, and fats. After these children are released from the hospitals, Doctors Without Borders sends them home with rations of food for themselves and their family.
On January 11th, Nigeria launched a plan in which they aim to end hunger by 2030 (BBC, 2017). The document is titled “Synthesis Report of the Nigeria Zero Hunger Strategic Review”, which adopts the goal to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture” by the year 2030. This report is 60 pages long and takes into account the perspectives of Nigerian citizens as to what actions are necessary to combat hunger. Former president Olusegun Obasanjo headed the report and says that it has the ability to “unlock the potential of our nation and emancipate our dear country from the shackles of hunger and poverty.” The report discusses making use of technologies that will aid in the growth of maize, soybeans, plantains, and other native crops. Many national food organizations, such as World Food Program (WFP), have praised Nigeria for adopting this plan and are urging other countries to emulate their ideas. They also recognize that efforts as large as this require strong collaboration and cannot be successful unless many organizations support their efforts. The African Development Bank has also provided funds to finance this mission.