Aid groups fear hold up in relief as UN suspends aid in Nigeria after attack

by Kieran Guilbert | KieranG77 | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 29 July 2016 16:49 GMT

A woman sells milk at a community of internally displaced people in Maiduguri, Nigeria, March 9, 2016. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

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Nearly 250,00 children in Borno suffer from life-threatening malnourishment and around one in five will die if they do not receive treatment

By Kieran Guilbert

DAKAR, July 29 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Major aid agencies in northeast Nigeria said on Friday their operations could be hampered after an attack on a humanitarian convoy prompted the United Nations to temporarily suspend aid deliveries in Borno state, the former stronghold of Boko Haram.

Unknown attackers struck yesterday as the convoy returned to Borno's capital Maiduguri after delivering aid in Bama, injuring a U.N. children's agency (UNICEF) employee and an International Organization for Migration contractor, according to UNICEF.

"For now, movement of U.N. personnel outside Maiduguri is suspended for three days while the incident is investigated, hampering delivery of aid," UNICEF's regional director, Manuel Fontaine, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"UNICEF continues to urge partners to join the humanitarian response in Borno ... to avoid affected populations, including children, being left without assistance," Fontaine added.

Nearly 250,00 children in Borno suffer from life-threatening malnourishment and around one in five will die if they do not receive treatment, UNICEF said earlier this month.

Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said on Wednesday that malnourished children were dying in large numbers in the northeast, where food supplies have almost run out.

Troops were escorting the convoy when it was attacked by "suspected remnants of Boko Haram", said Nigerian army spokesman Sani Usman. Two soldiers and three civilians were wounded.

The Red Cross said while its activities would continue, it would be more vigilant and adapt its operations in the region.

"We are suspending our movements in some areas of Borno State for a few days," said Elodie Schindler, spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Oxfam's country director described the humanitarian situation in Borno, where the attack took place, as "desperate".

"Our work continues, but the level of violence, even in newly accessible areas, means we are struggling to get help to all those that need it," said Jan Rogge of Oxfam in Nigeria.

A regional offensive last year drove Boko Haram from much of the territory it held in northern Nigeria, undermining its seven-year campaign to carve out an Islamist caliphate.

But the Islamist militant group has since struck back with suicide bombings and hit and run attacks on civilians.

The violence, which has killed more than 15,000 people and uprooted 2.4 million in Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon, has pushed food insecurity and malnutrition to emergency levels in northeast Nigeria (Reporting By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by xxxxx; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)

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