Humanitarian aid to people in Nigeria is not getting through because of a resurgence of Boko Haram and the West African branch of the Islamic State.
Reuters and the New York Times both have reported on both groups having a freer rein as Nigeria’s military has withdrawn to “super camps” in various parts of the country. The new strategy, announced last month, masses military personnel in key towns that can be more easily defended and from which soldiers would better be able to respond to insurgent attacks.
But that leaves many areas unprotected, and in the words of a Reuters article the Islamic State is “filling the void.” (ISIS in West Africa evolved in 2016 as a group split from the Boko Haram insurgency, which itself started in 2009 in order to overthrow the government and establish an Islamic caliphate.)
The New York Times reported that the faction has received propaganda guidance from the Islamic State in Syria. Boko Haram militants are “still roaming the countryside with impunity,” the Times reported. This too is happening in the wake of the military’s new strategy. “Their fighters now have more sophisticated drones than the military and are well-armed after successful raids on military brigades, according to local politicians and security analysts.”
Meanwhile more than 100,000 people are cut off from aid and if more soldiers go, as many as 121,000 other civilians could flee their towns, one aid agency briefing note said. Said the Times, “The war with Boko Haram has devastated the population in rural northeast Nigeria, one of the poorest regions on earth. More than two million people have fled their homes, tens of thousands have been killed and many more injured, abducted and conscripted to join the fight. The International Committee of the Red Cross said this week that nearly 22,000 Nigerians have been reported missing during the crisis.”
“Some aid groups are scaling back, deeming the conflict so protracted that it is no longer an acute emergency,” the newspaper said.