I’m woken by gunshots and explosions several times during my first night in Maiduguri.
The city in north-eastern Nigeria is where Boko Haram began its violent insurgency in 2009. Despite counteroffensives by the Nigerian military, Boko Haram continue to have a strong foothold here, often carrying out violent attacks on civilians.
Constant threat of violence
In the morning, our security officer warns me to be on high alert. A young man was killed in the early hours after a girl blew herself up with a suicide bomb in the nearby community of Kaleri. I’m due to visit that area later in the day to establish a cash transfer programme.
A famine is widely expected to take hold in the worst affected areas
We revise our plan and visit another community in the Bulunkuttu area of the city. A large crowd has gathered to meet us, but due to security concerns we restrict our meeting to 10 community leaders including the community chief.
The community here largely consists of people who have been displaced from the areas of Bama, Marte, Baga and Gwoza – all between 40 and 100 kilometres from Bulunkuttu. They make up part of the 1.9 million people who have been forced to flee their homes to other parts of Nigeria as a result of the violence. Many of these people have no way to make money and are dependent on humanitarian support.
Severe food shortages
Abdu, a community leader who used to be a farmer in his village, says that some children and families have taken to begging on the streets to feed themselves. “We cannot express the hardships we have been through over last 3 years due to the crisis,” he says.
Food security remains the main priority for people in the region, with 4.4 million in urgent need of assistance. “We are lucky if we get one meal a day,” says Abdu.
For the third year in a row, there has been no food production as farmers have been unable to plant crops due to the threat of violence. In June 2016, the Nigerian Ministry of Health declared a nutrition emergency in Borno. A famine is also widely expected to take hold in the worst affected areas.
Cash transfers support families
Plan International, with funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, will deliver unconditional cash transfers to 1,000 households in Nigeria for at least 2 months to enable them meet their basic food needs.
Cash transfer programmes help people affected by disasters and conflicts to provide food and shelter for their families and start to generate income. Cash transfers are quick to deliver, cost-effective and provide people in need with greater choices and decision making power. They are also hugely beneficial for local economies which can take a huge hit during emergencies.
In 2015, we implemented cash transfer programming to great success in response to the earthquake in Nepal. The transfers substantially contributed to meeting the basic food needs of families and boosted efforts to rebuild their homes.
Before we leave, I tell Abdu that his family of 5 will receive 29,000 Nigerian Naira (€88) within days. It will buy them enough food for almost 2 months.