Aid Workers Remain Targets Of Insurgency In North-East

Humanitarian organisations on the ground in North-East Nigeria have been on the frontline of the war against Boko Haram, with aid workers putting themselves directly in the line of fire.

Aid organisations, among them the United Nations World Food Programme, Action Against Hunger (ACF) and the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) and many others, have been providing aid to the victims in the region.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), 12 aid workers were killed in Nigeria in 2019, and twice as many in 2018.

Since 2019, 17 aid workers have been killed by terrorist groups, with Action Against Hunger also stating that Islamist insurgents had abducted five humanitarian workers in Borno state, one of which was their employee.

Ishaiku Yakubu was kidnapped in June by an armed group, alongside his colleagues from other humanitarian organisations.

Terrorists have repeatedly targeted aid workers throughout the insurgency in the region.

In July, six other humanitarian workers were kidnapped by the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), including an ACF employee.

“These are humanitarian workers who chose to devote their lives to helping the most vulnerable communities in Nigeria,” the ACF’s statement said, demanding their release.

Five of them were executed barely a month later, while the female ACF employee remains in captivity.

The victims were later identified as workers from the State Emergency Management Agency, Action Against Hunger, Rich International, and International Rescue Committee.

According to the United Nations, two aid workers remain in captivity. One of them is Grace Taku, who was working with Action Against Hunger in Borno.

Action Against Hunger provides food assistance every month to approximately 300,000 people in the northeast who lack access to food.

Alice Loksha was also abducted in the line of duty at an IDP camp in Rann in March 2018 while working for UNICEF.

The two other health workers with whom she was captured, Saifura Hussaini Khorsa and Hauwa Mohammed Liman, were slain by the insurgents.

“We are extremely worried that aid workers, who are mostly Nigerians working to deliver critical life-saving humanitarian assistance to fellow compatriots, have increasingly become direct targets of attacks and abduction by non-state armed groups,” remarked the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr Edward Kallon.

Five aid workers who were abducted in early December 2019 were also released last January by ISWAP after negotiations led by a Nigerian journalist came through. Although this was a welcome development, the UN has called for the release of Taku and Loksha from captivity.

Speaking on the occasion of the 2020 World Humanitarian Day, Mark Lowcock, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, commended humanitarian workers for their courageous work in the front lines of ongoing conflicts.

“You are saving lives every day, and as new challenges and crises are piling on to existing ones, your perseverance is an inspiration,” he said.

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Hafsah Abubakar Matazu

Hafsah Abubakar Matazu is the Head of the Humanitarian and Development Desk at HumAngle, focusing on both international and national organisations providing aid, as well as contributing to the response to the crisis in Nigeria and Africa as a whole especially where it comes to insecurity. Her reporting also extends to foreign missions and other diplomatic relations in this regard.

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