Boko Haram is a radical extremist Islamic terrorist group that was founded in 2002. Based in Nigeria, they have focused primarily on limiting Western influence and have been attempting to create an independent state since 2009. The group is responsible for at least 12,000 murders and continues to damage the social and economic well-being of Nigeria and all of its citizens. The effects of insecurity have resulted in 1) mass displacement, 2) homelessness, 3) starvation and malnutrition, 4) rampant diseases, 5) underage marriage, 6) prostitution and 7) economic losses. Keep reading to see how these issues have affected North Eastern Nigeria and her citizens.
As violence and instability increase, populations begin to move to areas that are less impacted. Millions of Nigerians have been displaced and forced into other areas. Businesses also have been quickly abandoning Nigeria especially in the North. Banks have closed down branches, businesses have moved and employees ask to be reassigned to less violent areas. The constant threat of violence has resulted in Nigeria being listed as the country with the highest number of internally displaced people.
As people are compelled to leave areas that are under daily threat from terror attacks, they are typically forced to either stay in a temporary shelter and camp or completely relocate. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, more than 1.5 million Nigerians were living in displacement camps as of April 2015 (http://www.phoenix-acumen.com/blog/nigerias-internally-displaced-people-the-boko-haram-effect/).
Unfortunately, around 90% of all of these camps have been closed down despite the continuing attacks in the north. Closing down these camps has put tens of thousands at risk for homelessness. Many fear returning to areas where violence continues and have nowhere else to go. Additionally, in November of 2015 the issue of unlawful government evictions was highlighted by a human rights expert at the United Nations.
Government officials have been caught illegally evicting hundreds for developmental purposes. A shocking 60% of Nigerians are homeless (http://allafrica.com/stories/201210050454.html).
Starvation & Malnutrition
While humanitarian efforts are providing food, water and health care to refugees, support and resources are only available in government-controlled areas (https://www.devex.com/news/the-boko-haram-effect-on-development-in-nigeria-85247). These relief projects are only able to help people who were able to successfully flee from violent areas, and those who are able to reach a camp still have limited resources. Camps are usually overcrowded and ill-equipped to handle the large amounts of people. Starvation is a major issue for Nigerians.
Food Aid International reported that in 2004 over 3,000 people were dying of starvation daily in the country (http://reliefweb.int/report/nigeria/3000-nigerians-die-daily-hunger-ngo). UNICEF reported that in 2015 Nigeria’s camps averaged an 18% threshold for malnutrition compared to the global emergency threshold of 15% (http://www.phoenix-acumen.com/blog/nigerias-internally-displaced-people-the-boko-haram-effect/). Nearly one in four Nigerian children under the age of five suffer from malnutrition (http://www.actionagainsthunger.org/countries/africa/nigeria).
Poor hygiene, sanitation and health care among a crowded group of displaced individuals is a breeding ground for diseases. Camps and its residents often face outbreaks of malaria, cholera, measles, and typhoid fever. HIV and STDs are easily spread. Statistics show that Nigeria has the second largest HIV/AIDS positive population in Africa with over 40 million people affected (http://reliefweb.int/report/nigeria/3000-nigerians-die-daily-hunger-ngo).
Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy and is mostly supported by massive oil reserves. Once Boko Haram began heavily terrorizing the country, foreign direct investments immediately dropped 21 percent in only one year. In the same year, over $1.9 billion was lost due to investments (http://www.tabj.co.za/features/june14_features/boko_haram_and_its_impact_on_the_nigerian_economy.html).
The effects of insecurity in Nigeria’s political stability quickly became a domino-like effect that swept global markets. Despite all of this, about 90% of Nigeria’s current exports are accounted for by oil alone and the overall economy is booming. The incredible gains of the economy are not reflected in the country’s citizens. According the National Bureau of Statistics, about 70% of the country’s population lives below the poverty line (http://www.bbc.com/news/business-32069880).
In the most affected areas of Nigeria, millions of school age children are not attending school because it has become impossible. Estimates place about 7,000 children were forced out of formal education in 2012 directly because of the area’s insecurity (http://www.irinnews.org/report/95327/nigeria-school-attendance-down-after-boko-haram-attacks).
Schools have been a major target for Boko Haram because of the influence of Western education. The terror group is insistent that children are only taught Islamic traditions. Most young girls are instead married off very early while the young boys are often recruited by terrorists (http://www.economist.com/blogs/baobab/2014/05/boko-harams-impact-nigeria). Nigerian federal law does prohibit marriage under eighteen, but the northern terrorist controlled areas follow their own version of Sharia law in which underage marriage is traditional.
A 2003 Girls Not Brides campaign estimated that around 78% of girls are married before they turn 18 in the northwest (http://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2015/mar/11/the-tragedy-of-nigerias-child-brides).
In many of the northern areas, businesses do not open regularly in fear of attacks from Boko Haram. People living in these areas lose their jobs when businesses move out or refuse to open. The biggest market, Maiduguri Monday Market, has lost about 5,000 shops. The country has reportedly lost about 1 million people from the work force (http://planetabuja.com/blog/2015/08/24/how-boko-haram-affects-socioeconomic-activities-in-the-north-east-of-nigeria/).
As legitimate businesses leave areas, many women are forced to look for other means of supporting their family including prostitution. A large amount of women are also tricked or forced into prostitution as a means of escaping the constant terror and violence.
A Country Divided
The result of all of this insecurity is an extremely poor and unstable northern region aside the very commercial and profitable southern area. The crippling damages that the north suffers at the hands of this radical group seem far removed from the booming economy in the southern areas. One employee in southern Nigeria explains, “We’re not feeling the impact…we believe we are safe here,” (http://www.ibtimes.com/boko-haram-nigerias-economy-why-poorest-suffer-most-1645190).
In contrast, families in the northern areas are afraid to go to school or work in fear of the daily atrocities at the hands of Boko Haram.
The constant political instability and insecurity has resulted in a whole host of social and economic problems for Nigerians. The citizens and government officials alike recognize the need to combat the group and restore security, but have yet to determine how to weaken the terrorist organization. The government has been attempting to fight the terrorism and heighten national security, but all government initiatives have fallen flat.
More recently, Nigeria has asked for international assistance from EU countries, the United States and Israel in fighting the Islamic extremist group. The radical group continues committing daily displays of violence but the international community has yet to seriously tackle the group.
In May of 2015 President Obama of the United States supported Nigeria’s neighbors Chad, Niger and Mali with over $35 million in military defense weapons. He did not, however, offer any assistance to Nigeria in their fight against Boko Haram. Instead, the United states refuses to sell Nigeria arms to fight the terrorists. The American government claims that Nigeria is in violation of human rights treaties and will not sell their government arms (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/05/05/u-s-to-nigeria-no-guns-to-fight-boko-haram.html).
America has addressed some of the effects of the Nigeria’s instability. They have started two educational programs designed to assist internally displaced Nigerians and launched the Nigeria Regional Transition Initiative in order to improve stability in the region (https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/10/14/fact-sheet-us-efforts-assist-nigerian-government-its-fight-against-boko-).
Boko Haram’s terror campaign must be halted for humanitarian reasons, the well-being of Nigerian citizens and the social and economic development of Nigeria. The far reaching consequences of this radical group’s behavior are clear d cannot be ignored any longer.