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An open letter on the unfolding tragedy in Nigeria

An open letter to the editor of the Financial Times signed by Mo Ibrahim on the tradgedy unfolding in Nigeria:


Dear Sir, the tragedy now unfolding in north-east Nigeria is one of the world’s deadliest but least reported emergencies – and must be addressed when humanitarian emergency donors gather this week in Geneva.

Over 4.7 million people are in need of food assistance and some 400,000 children are at imminent risk of starvation. Almost 2 million people have been displaced. Most are living without adequate nutrition or clean water. And over half-a-million children have lost access to education. Many of the areas affected are inaccessible due to ongoing conflict and insecurity – so the final numbers of those in need are likely to be far higher.

The international aid response has been inadequate. Less than 40% of the humanitarian response plan for 2016 was funded – and the shortfall has cost lives. Part of the avoidable tragedy is that only a small group of donors have risen to the challenge. The UK, the US, and the European Union’s emergency fund account for most of the limited support provided so far. Donors conspicuous by their absence from the humanitarian response to NE Nigeria must now step up to the plate and do more. Estimates for 2017 put emergency financing requirements at US$1.2bn. These resources are needed to keep girls and boys alive: warnings from the UN and NGOs that business-as-usual will cost 200 child lives a day must be taken seriously.

Of course, the ultimate responsibility for the humanitarian response rests squarely with Nigerian authorities. President Buhari’s government has demonstrated serious intent. But a coordinated commitment between the Nigerian government, international partners, and UN agencies is only just coming together and too many partners have acted far too slowly. Decisive action now must be delivered in a way that both saves lives but also tackles the long-term causes of the crisis: a combination of extreme poverty, corruption, marginalisation and inequality that has been exploited by Islamic extremists. That is why we urge donors and the Nigerian government to link the immediate humanitarian response to a recovery strategy that openly and accountably delivers the education, jobs, infrastructure required so we can save lives now and stops the crisis recurring in the future.


Aliko Dangote, President and CEO, Dangote Group
David Oyelowo, Actor
Mo Ibrahim, Founder and Chair, Mo Ibrahim Foundation
Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director, Oxfam
Kevin Watkins, CEO, Save the Children UK
Bono, Lead singer, U2 and Co-founder, ONE
Nachilala Nkombo, Executive Director, ONE in Africa