For over seven years, the people of northeastern Nigeria have suffered unspeakable horrors at the hands of the deadly Islamist group Boko Haram. The group grabbed the world’s attention in 2014 after it kidnapped more than 270 schoolgirls, and over the weekend there were reports that dozens of the girls were freed in exchange for suspected extremists who had been detained. Thousands of people have been abducted, raped or slaughtered by the group.
The extremists have now been routed from much of their former stronghold, but where they once held sway, another horror has been revealed: More than five million people face acute food shortages, and nearly 44,000 face famine, which is declared when, among other criteria, two or more people out of 10,000 die every day. The group’s campaign of terror made it impossible for people in the territory they controlled to farm, fish or trade. Many will die without immediate food assistance.
Yet, help has been delayed. One reason is Nigeria’s perennial problem with corruption. President Muhammadu Buhari has worked in the northeast to address the famine, but last December a Nigerian Senate committee was unable to account for some $7.9 million allocated to the effort. Mr. Buhari’s cabinet secretary, David Babachir Lawal, was suspended on allegations he awarded contracts that were, in fact, a means to divert funds and an investigation was begun.
Nigeria’s economy is recovering from recession, making it even harder to pay for relief. United Nations aid groups are facing severe budget shortfalls as they struggle to help Nigeria and address the threat of famine in Yemen, Somalia and South Sudan.
With only a fraction of the funds it says it needs to help feed Nigeria, the United Nations’ World Food Program has been forced to cut rations. The agency says it needs $224 million to continue its work in northeastern Nigeria through October. Acknowledging the crisis, the United States Agency for International Development…