The devastation wrought by Boko Haram, which has left millions of people in northeast Nigeria on the brink of famine, could exacerbate Europe’s migration crisis if the world fails to act urgently, the country’s chief humanitarian coordinator said.
Nearly five million people in the region are desperately hungry and risk starving to death this year if they do not receive food aid, according to figures from the United Nations.
This could drive even more Nigerians to flee the country and attempt the perilous journey to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea, unless the international community ramps up support and funds, said Ayoade Alakija, Nigeria’s humanitarian coordinator.
"With so many people facing famine, this is the wrong time to criticise us and simply say ’You are the giant of Africa’.
"The world could see a mass exodus from a country of 180 million people if support is not given, and fast ... if people facing famine fall into famine," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview in the Senegalese capital of Dakar.
While the European Union has been strained by the influx of 1.6 million refugees and migrants between 2014 and 2016, a greater number of people in northeast Nigeria, some 1.8 million, are displaced and unable or unwilling to go home, Mr Alakija added.
"For Nigeria, this is an unprecedented humanitarian crisis of large magnitude. We, and the wider world, were largely unprepared for it," she said, adding that Nigeria was struggling to respond as it deals with its first recession in 25 years.