Famine killing tens of thousands in Boko Haram region -U.N.
Friday, 30 September 2016 13:14 GMT
"The tragedy of using the F word is that when you apply it it's too late"
By Tom Miles
GENEVA, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of people are dying of hunger in the area of west Africa where Boko Haram militants are active, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for the region, told a news conference on Friday.
About 65,000 people are in a "catastrophe" or "phase 5" situation, according to a food security assessment by the IPC, the recognised classification system on declaring famines.
Phase 5 applies when, even with humanitarian assistance, "starvation, death and destitution" are evident.
"The tragedy of using the F word is that when you apply it it's too late," said Toby Lanzer, who has also worked in South Sudan, Darfur and Chechnya.
Boko Haram militants have killed about 15,000 people and displaced more than 2 million in a seven-year insurgency and they still launch deadly attacks despite having been pushed out of the vast swathes of territory they controlled in 2014.
"This is the first time I've come across people talking about phase 5. The reason for that was simply a lack of access. We couldn't get to places," Lanzer said.
"Because of the insecurity sown almost exclusively by Boko Haram, people have missed three planting seasons."
Asked if it was safe to assume that tens of thousands of people were dying, Lanzer said: "It's not what we're assuming, it's what the IPC states. And I back that number.
"I can tell you from my first trip outside (the regional capital) Maiduguri, I had never gone to places that had adults who were so depleted of energy that they could barely walk."
One aid agency reported back from the Nigerian town of Bama that its staff had counted the graves of about 430 children who had died of hunger in the past few weeks, Lanzer said.