Red Cross raises alarm over scale of Boko Haram crisis

AFP , Thursday 21 May 2015

Red Cross personnel
Red Cross personnel search for remains at the site of one of Tuesday's car bomb in Jos, Nigeria, Wednesday, May 21, 2014 (Photo: AP)

The Boko Haram conflict has caused "one of the most serious humanitarian crises in Africa," with additional funding for victims support needed urgently, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Thursday.

ICRC President Peter Maurer made the comments in Nigeria's capital Abuja after visiting two northeast cities, Maiduguri and Yola, where hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the fighting have fled.

"I came back with the strong impression that I have seen a tip of the iceberg," he told reporters.

He specifically noted the glaring need for further support for victims of sexual violence, amid widespread evidence that the Islamist rebel fighters raped women and girls they had kidnapped.

He then criticised unspecified aid agencies for not recognising or responding to the scale of the crisis.

"I'm critical with regards to those humanitarian actors who talk a lot (but) who do not deliver on the ground," he added.

"Whole communities have fled their villages and endured unimaginable suffering...They need support far beyond what the ICRC can provide, yet in many hard-hit places we find ourselves alone," he added in a separate statement.

Maurer said the ICRC operations budget in the Lake Chad area -- which includes northeast Nigeria and neighbouring parts of Cameroon, Chad and Niger -- currently stood at 110 million Swiss francs ($117 million, 105 million euros).

That budget makes the Boko Haram-scarred region the third largest ICRC operation behind Syria and South Sudan, but Maurer said he planned to submit a request for an additional 60 million Swiss francs, given the growing need.

The Islamist uprising has left more than 15,000 people dead since 2009 and forced another 1.5 million from their homes.

Nigeria's military, backed by its neighbours, has liberated a series of towns from Boko Haram control in an operation launched in February, but violence has continued, including guerrilla-style attacks on civilians.

"Even if the fighting stops tomorrow, it will take years of investment and painstaking work to rebuild livelihoods and services, overcome the trauma and find some sense of normality," Maurer said in the statement.

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