President Muhammadu Buhari has called for more concerted and institutionalized effort in ameliorating the suffering of refugees and Internally Displaced Persons in Africa, saying only “collective and coordinated” approach would make a difference.
In his remarks at the 16th African Union Extra-ordinary Session of Assembly of Heads of State and Government on Humanitarian Crises in African and Pledging Conference, holding in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, President Buhari said more than five million people have been displaced in the Lake Chad region, with 70 percent of them mostly Nigerians.
“We cannot deny the fact that we have a very dangerous humanitarian crisis in our hands,” he said, adding that the violent onslaught by Boko Haram insurgents on the North East of Nigeria had led to humanitarian crises.
In Nigeria, President Buhari noted that the humanitarian crisis necessitated the creation of Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, which was designed to provide a national response strategy.
“This is in line with the Kampala Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons. I am glad to inform Your Excellencies that the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs of Nigeria has continued to live up to its mandate in responding quickly to all situations of displaced persons and disaster management.
The President said the ministry also broadened its scope of operations by caring for deprived school children in the country.
“The ministry carries out a compulsory school feeding programme in primary schools across the country. This is to ensure that every child gets at least one balanced and nutritious meal daily.
“Through the ministry, government established Internally Displaced Persons camps in every part of the country for refugees, returnee migrants and displaced persons, where food, shelter, clothing, medical care and other livelihood support are provided for all displaced persons.
“We also have introduced a Conditional Cash Transfer scheme, whereby a monthly cash transfer is made to the very poor and vulnerable in our society,” the President noted.
President Buhari welcomed the establishment of an African Union Humanitarian Agency to cater for the growing needs of displaced persons and refugees.
“The rationale for the establishment of this Agency is to forge a common African position on humanitarian effectiveness and to create an appropriate continental architecture to effectively respond and coordinate humanitarian crises on the continent,” he added.
The President thanked the African Union, government and people of Equatorial Guinea for providing the platform for leaders to deliberate and address pressing issues confronting the continent.
“You will agree that this conference could not have come at a better time, considering the challenges posed by the increasing rate of Internally Displaced Persons, Refugees and Returnee Migrants, to our various countries and the continent at large.
“As you are aware, Mr. Chairperson, the world is confronted by emerging threats, such as Climate Change, resulting in global warming, rising levels in waters, in some climes shrinking of rivers and lakes.
“All these lead to distortions in our aquatic and consequently ecological systems. Conflicts, violent extremism and terrorist attacks, including herdsmen-farmers clashes and banditry lead to the displacement of whole communities, thus rendering thousands of people homeless.
“In the North East of Nigeria alone, millions of people have been displaced, as a result of the Climate Change, which caused the shrinking of Lake Chad and subsequent loss of means of livelihood.
“Your Excellencies, as we meet today in this historic city of Malabo to actualize our dreams to establish the African Humanitarian Agency, I congratulate you all for rising to the occasion,” he said.
While pledging $3m for the takeoff of the African Union Humanitarian Agency, the President also appreciated the Specialized Technical Committee for their hard work to produce the statutes.
The African Union Chairman and President of Senegal, Macky Sall, pledged $3m on behalf of his country, urging other African leaders to contribute to the establishment of the humanitarian agency.
The AU Chairman said the rising challenges of Climate Change, natural disasters and terrorism had made it mandatory to set up an Agency that would meet the needs of displaced Africans.
The President of the host country, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, pledged $4m, with $2m for the new Agency, while $2m will go to Mozambique.