top of page


Since the crisis began in 2009, a decade-long conflict with no end in sight has led to one of the world’s most severe humanitarian crises. 27,000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed as a result of this conflict.

Despite considerable achievements by aid organizations over the past years, the humanitarian situation in Nigeria remains one of the largest crises in the world today. The ongoing conflict in north-east Nigeria, now entering its eleventh year, and the upsurge in violent attacks over the past year in the crisis-affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe have deepened humanitarian needs.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further deteriorated the situation. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and the situation is also making it one of the most vulnerable populations in Africa.

What caused the crisis in Nigeria?

Nigeria is a multi-ethnic society, consisting of a diversity of ethnic nationalities Although these groups co-exist, their ethnic and cultural values are different. These cultural differences are sometimes accentuated resulting in various kinds of communal clashes.

Religious violence in Nigeria refers mostly to Christian-Muslim strife in modern Nigeria, which can be traced back to 1953. Today, religious violence in Nigeria is dominated by the Boko Haram insurgency, which aims to establish an Islamic state in Nigeria.

To understand the present-day scenario better we must look backward into the history of Nigeria.

Nigeria as seen presently in maps was amalgamated back in 1914 after the British defeated some of the Islamic states which constituted most of the Northern part of Nigeria. As an aftermath of the first world war Germany lost its colonies, one of which was Cameroon. The Northern Cameroon opted to join Nigeria, a move which added to Nigeria's already large Northern Muslim population.

Although all these multi-ethnic groups had always pre-existed together, the religious tension can be traced back to 1953.This was the time when the infamous incident of LGBO massacre occurred followed by the military coup in 1966. During the years of military dictatorship, communal clashes and ethnic conflicts were rather minimal because they were suppressed by military might.

In 1999 Nigeria finally achieved democracy with Sharia law been instituted as a main body of civil and criminal law in 9 Muslim-majority and in some parts of 3 Muslim-plurality states. However, this democratic dispensation provided every citizen more room and opportunity for self-expression, but at times, this right is often misunderstood for vulgarism. The resultant effect is conflicts amongst the ethnic groups, tribes, kindred and even clans.

Since 2000’s after the restoration of democracy, Christians have dominated the country at federal level whereas Sharia is implemented in the Muslim majority states. Religious conflict between Muslims and Christians has erupted several times since then for various reasons, often causing riots with several thousands of victims on both sides.

Since 2009, the Islamist movement Boko Haram has fought an armed rebellion against the Nigerian military, sacking villages and towns and taking thousands of lives in battles and massacres against Christians, students and others who opposed Islam. It has devastated the Lake Chad region and set off a large-scale humanitarian crisis.

Another dimension to this religious conflict which remains quite unknown is the clashes among the farmers and herders. where the herders tend to be Muslims from the Fulani ethnic group and farmers are mostly Christians. According to “The Washington Post” this conflict has overtaken the Boko Haram crisis as the deadliest conflict in Nigeria, killing six times more Nigerians than Boko Haram did in the same period. For centuries the herders have travelled all over Africa with cattle searching for fertile grazing land for their cows. But desertification and the Boko Haram crisis in Nigeria's northeast, among other factors, have begun to push the herders farther south, where they encounter settled communities that are already struggling with their own population booms.

Present scenario:

About 10.6 million Nigerians are in need of humanitarian assistance in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (BAY) states – the highest level recorded since the beginning of the coordinated humanitarian response in 2015. The number of people in need has increased from 7.1 million people in 2019 to 7.9 million people at the beginning of 2020. That figure is now even higher because of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, more than 40 per cent of health facilities in those three states have been damaged or destroyed as a result of the protracted conflict.

80 percent of the people in need of humanitarian assistance across the BAY states are women and children. These women and girls are the most vulnerable. Thousands have been abducted since the crisis began in 2009. Many more face gender-based violence, including sexual violence, trafficking, and forced survival sex in exchange for food and basic items.

Borno, a state in northeastern Nigeria, is the epicenter of the crisis and faces the most major security concerns. Armed groups continue to attack civilians and aid workers in the region. Rann, a remote town in Borno, is particularly difficult for humanitarian assistance to reach due to poor road conditions and frequent violent attacks from armed groups. Flooding has further damaged roads to Rann, blocking food and other commodities from entering the area. More than 40,000 people – mostly internally displaced people – have little or no access to food or services.

Over 2 million people remain internally displaced in the worst-affected BAY states, these people have little or no source of food, proper sanitation and shelter. The conditions are deteriorating day by day and with the increase in violence, and natural calamities there seems no ray of hope. More than 24,000 people are sleeping out in the open, and four out of five people living in camps are in overcrowded conditions with makeshift and temporary shelters built in close proximity to each other, making physical distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 impossible.

What are the international communities doing to help Nigeria?

Since 2016, humanitarian actors have been working in support of the Government of Nigeria to robustly scale up the response. In 2019 alone, more than 5.2 million people received humanitarian assistance in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states.

In 2020, scaling up critical COVID-19 responses together with other previously planned humanitarian actions is essential to address the most urgent needs, protect the most vulnerable people from the pandemic, and prevent further deterioration. UN and partner NGOs are collectively appealing for $1.08 billion to provide urgent aid to 7.8 million people amongst the most vulnerable. The funding needed is less than $12 a month to save someone’s life.

To date in FY 2020, USAID has provided nearly $85 million in funding to support humanitarian assistance activities in Nigeria. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 and in FY 2020 to date, the U.S. Government (USG) provided more than $436 million—including more than $400 million from USAID and approximately $36 million from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration—to support the humanitarian response in Nigeria. The response in Nigeria is part of a larger response across the Lake Chad Basin region, for which the USG has provided approximately $574 million in FY 20192020 humanitarian funding.

The UN estimates that 7.9 million people will require humanitarian assistance across Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states in 2020—an 11 percent increase from 7.1 million people in 2019. Which means there’s a lot to be done yet.

“Conflicts and disasters have driven millions of children, women and men to the edge of survival. They desperately need our help.”


Recent Posts

See All

What’s going on in Haiti?

“A generation is taking a beating” Haiti is trapped in a political crisis. Protests demanding the resignation of the Haitian president amid corruption claims alongside kidnappings and violent gang war

DRC In Chaos

Until now in the series of humanitarian crisis most countries I wrote about were the ones which are deprived of resources, but today I am going to talk about Democratic Republic of Congo- a country ho


Ever since its independence in 2011, all that South Sudan has seen is violence, political instability and the rise of local militias. All these factors have pushed this country into one of the world’s


bottom of page