*Accuses military of spurious accusations against NGOs
By Abraham Olatokunbo
The last definitely has not be held of the barring of activities of two international non-governmental agencies, Action Against Hunger and Mercy Corps, as Médecins Sans Frontières, otherwise called Doctors Without Borders has accused the military of “spurious accusations”.
Hope of the resumption of activities of the two ban organisations were raised last week when Mark Lowcock, United Nations Under-Secretary after his visit to Nigeria, in a statement, revealed that the discussion with Nigeria authorities was fruitful and assurances have been given on the lifting of the ban.
But on Monday, MSF, in a statement alleged that instances of violence, abuse and deprivation is almost normalised in the North-east.
It argued that humanitarian agencies, operating in the troubled Nigerian North-east, must be allowed to play their roles in an independent, neutral and impartial manner.
It warned that: “Disruptions of humanitarian assistance, including food aid, have life-threatening consequences, particularly for the most vulnerable.”
The MSF lamented that the conflict in Northeast Nigeria still leaves Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states in need of a massive and sustained humanitarian response.
The statement, read in part, said: “A decade of conflict has disrupted the lives of millions of people almost to a point where violence, abuse, and deprivation has become normalized.”
It said: “Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) remains committed to providing high quality medical assistance to the population of northeast Nigeria,” stressing that “aid must be delivered impartially and neutrally to all in need, in line with international humanitarian law.”
It said: “Serious medical needs remain widespread in northeast Nigeria, while essential items and clean drinking water are scarce; in the first half of 2019 alone, MSF admitted more than 15,000 patients on an emergency basis, treated over 8,000 patients for malaria, ensured 2,446 safe deliveries and vaccinated 9,117 people against measles.”
MSF said: “Humanitarians, by definition, strive to reach the most vulnerable people in need. However, today, we are only able to reach a part of these people. Nearly one million people remain in areas with no access to much-needed assistance due to ongoing hostilities, impassable roads or restrictions on the movement of people, aid and goods.
“Inside government-controlled areas, hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people are entirely dependent on humanitarian aid for survival. Disruptions of humanitarian assistance, including food aid, have life-threatening consequences, particularly for the most vulnerable. This, along with continued insecurity in the area that prevents people from farming or fishing, risks creating another nutrition crisis.”
It added that: “Even as the population continues to bear the brunt of the decade-long conflict, aid organisations face limitations in caring for them. Humanitarian aid has been repeatedly targeted throughout the conflict, with aid workers that have been killed, as well as recent forced suspensions of vital assistance amidst spurious accusations of NGOs furthering the conflict.
“Humanitarian aid workers, medical staff and civilians in conflict zones are not party to the conflict, nor a target.
Following the statement released today by the United Nations Under-Secretary General and Humanitarian Chief, MSF stresses that in times of conflict, humanitarian aid must be able to play its role in an independent, neutral and impartial manner.
“Not only does this guarantee the quality of assistance, but it also protects front line workers. These principles must be respected by all parties to the conflict, the Nigerian authorities, United Nations’ representatives and agencies and international non-governmental organisations working in the north-east.”
The statement added that: “Today, the population of northeast Nigeria and humanitarian organisations seeking to care for them need more support than ever.
“Since the conflict in North-east Nigeria began in 2009, approximately 35,000 people have been killed, while 1.8 million people have been displaced from their homes and a further 230,000 people have fled to neighbouring Chad, Cameroon and Niger.
“MSF has worked continuously in Nigeria since 1996 and in northeast Nigeria since 2014 and will continue to provide lifesaving medical care for those in need, irrespective of race, religion, creed or political convictions. Today, the population of northeast Nigeria and humanitarian organisations seeking to care for them need more support than ever.”