Nigeria unrest. Maiduguri clinic Stefan Heunis/Stringer

Educating Nigeria’s Survivors

Aid donors will soon gather in Oslo to mobilize international support for northeast Nigeria. Success could bring hope and the prospect of recovery for millions of vulnerable people, while failure will cost lives.

ABUJA – Two-year-old Bintu Mustapha is the human face behind the hidden humanitarian catastrophe now unfolding in northeast Nigeria. Her body wasted and stomach distended by hunger, Bintu’s life hangs by the nutritional drip inserted in her hand. Too weak to move, she is one of 30 children being treated at a Save the Children emergency nutrition clinic in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State – and the area worst affected by the Nigerian government’s drive to end the Boko Haram insurgency.

As aid donors gather in Oslo for a conference aimed at mobilizing support for northeast Nigeria, the stakes could hardly be higher. For tens of thousands of children like Bintu, this is – literally – a life-or-death moment. Success in Oslo could bring hope and the prospect of recovery for millions of vulnerable people. Failure will cost lives.

The scale of the crisis has yet to register with the international community. The humanitarian emergency in northeast Nigeria is the country’s most serious since the Biafra famine in the 1960s. As the Nigerian army has pushed into areas previously controlled by Boko Haram, more than two million people have been displaced. Huge pockets of previously hidden deprivation are coming into view as the military retakes territory.

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