If extremists don’t kill us, starvation will

Even the terror of being attacked and killed by extremists will not stop starving internally displaced persons and residents in the Monguno Local Government Area of Borno State from trying to farm their land and keep their tummies full.

Most internally displaced persons lost much of their land and livestock after fleeing from increased attacks by insurgents – mostly by members of the Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād (JAS) and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said last month that at least 9.2 million people in Nigeria faced a crisis or worse levels of food insecurity between March and May this year amid armed conflicts, COVID-19’s effects and climate change.

Of these, an estimated 3.2 million were in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states, it said.

“This figure is expected to increase to more than 12.8 million people, of whom 4.4 million are in the three northeastern states, from June to August, unless resilience-focused and humanitarian actions are taken.”

The FAO’s statement highlighted the increasing number of forced displacements.

“Increased violence and forced displacements continue to affect the humanitarian situation in northeastern Nigeria – the key hotspot of the armed conflict in the country – that has been further aggravated by trade disruptions and an economic decline linked to the effects of the coronavirus disease 2019 [COVID-19].”

“With the deterioration of the food security situation and an increased risk of famine in areas of Borno state, providing agricultural inputs to the most vulnerable households in time for the planting season starting now [June] is crucial to quickly increase food availability and access,” the FAO said.

The people of Moguno village said that they were desperate and they needed to farm as much land as they could to ensure they had food.

“Many of us are already starving. We are even prepared to go out to farm even though we know there is a good chance of us not returning because of attacks,” an internally displaced person said. “But no life threat can stop us from farming this year.”

Citizens, who did not want to be named, said that because of the frequent attacks by insurgents, the size of their land had diminished.

“It is also difficult to get access to our land.”

They said that before the insurgency – which began in earnest in 2009 – most of them had adequate farmland and many livestock.

“But it is different now and has been since the insurgency started. We have little land and very few, if any, livestock.”

Residents and internally displaced persons said that if the government and non-governmental organisations did not help them with food and essential items, they would probably starve to death.

They said the government needed to increase security so that they could go to their land to farm.

“If we knew we would be safe, we would not be so scared to go out to farm. We would prefer to do it ourselves rather than to rely on humanitarian aid agencies for help, but that’s probably the only way we will survive.”

Many had already taken the chance of going to the Lake Chad region to cultivate their land.

“We have to try to farm even if it means we might get attacked. If we don’t get killed by the insurgents, we could die of hunger.”

Those who were not farmers said they were also suffering because there was little work available and they were not earning enough to meet household essentials and they had little means of putting food on the table.

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