At least 110 people were killed in the weekend attack on farm workers in northeast Nigeria by Boko Haram, the UN humanitarian coordinator in the country said on Sunday, making it the deadliest raid on civilians this year in the country.
“At least 110 civilians were ruthlessly killed and many others were wounded in this attack,” Edward Kallon said in a statement after initial tolls indicated 43 and then at least 70 dead from the massacre on Saturday by suspected Boko Haram fighters.
“The incident is the most violent direct attack against innocent civilians this year,” Kallon said, adding: “I call for the perpetrators of this heinous and senseless act to be brought to justice.”
The attack took place in the village of Koshobe near the main city of Maiduguri, with assailants targeting farmers on rice fields. The Borno state governor, Babagana Umara Zulum, attended the burial on Sunday in the nearby village of Zabarmari of 43 bodies recovered on Saturday, saying the toll could rise after search operations resumed.
The assailants tied up the agricultural workers and slit their throats, according to a pro-government anti-jihadist militia. The victims were among labourers from Sokoto state in north-west Nigeria, about 1,000km (600 miles) away, who had travelled to the north-east to find work, it said. Six others were wounded in the attack and eight remained missing as of Saturday.
Kallon cited “reports that several women may have been kidnapped”, and called for their immediate release and return to safety.
The Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari ,condemned the attack, saying: “The entire country has been wounded by these senseless killings.”
The attack took place as voters went to the polls in long-delayed local elections in Borno state. The polls had been repeatedly postponed because of an increase in attacks by Boko Haram and a rival dissident faction, ISWAP.
The two groups have been blamed for increasing attacks on loggers, farmers and fishermen, whom they accuse of spying for the army and pro-government militias.
Suspected members of the Islamic militant group Boko Haram killed at least 40 rice farmers and fishermen while they were harvesting crops in Nigeria’s northern Borno State, officials said.
The attack was staged Saturday in a rice field in Garin Kwashebe, a Borno community known for rice farming, on the day residents of the state were casting votes for the first time in 13 years to elect local government councils, though many didn’t go to cast their ballots, reports AP.
The farmers were reportedly rounded up and summarily killed by armed insurgents.
Malam Zabarmari, a leader of a rice farmers association in Borno state, confirmed the massacre to The Associated Press.
“The farmers were attacked at the Garin-Kwashebe rice field in Zabarmari community, and according to reports reaching us since afternoon, about 40 of them were killed,” he said, adding that it likely could be up to 60 people killed.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari expressed grief over the killings.
“I condemn the killing of our hardworking farmers by terrorists in Borno State. The entire country is hurt by these senseless killings. My thoughts are with their families in this time of grief. May their souls Rest In Peace,” he said in a statement.
Buhari said the government had given all the needed support to the armed forces “to take all necessary steps to protect the country’s population and its territory.”
A member of the House of Representatives, Ahmed Satomi, who represents the Jere Federal constituency of Borno, said at least 44 burials will take place Sunday.
“Farmers and fishermen were killed in cold blood. Over 60 farmers were affected, but we only have so far received 44 corpses from the farms and we are preparing for their burials today, Sunday by God’s grace,” the federal lawmaker said.
Boko Haram and a breakaway faction, the Islamic State West Africa Province, are both active in the region. Boko Haram’s more than decade-long insurgency has left thousands dead and displaced tens of thousands. Officials say Boko Haram members often force villagers to pay illegal taxes by taking their livestock or crops. But over time, some villagers have begun to resist the extortion.
Satomi said the farmers in Garin Kwashebe were attacked because they had disarmed and arrested a Boko Haram gunman on Friday who had been tormenting them.
“A lone gunman, who was a member of Boko Haram came to harass the farmers by ordering them to give him money and also cook for him. While he was waiting for the food to be cooked, the farmers seized the moment he stepped into the toilet to snatch his rifle and tied him up,” he said.
“They later handed him over to the security. But sadly, the security forces did not protect the courageous farmer. And in reprisal for daring them, the Boko Haram mobilized and came to attack them on their farms.”
Insurgents also torched the rice farms before leaving, he said.
Dozens of Boko Haram militants were killed in a series of airstrikes carried out by the military in Nigeria's northeast region, a military spokesman said on Saturday.
Some hideouts of the terror group were also destroyed in the airstrikes on Friday at the village of Ngwuri Gana, along the Gulumba Gana-Kumshe axis and Tumbuma Baba of the northern state of Borno which shares a border with Lake Chad.
John Enenche, the spokesman for the Nigerian military, told Xinhua that airstrikes were carried out as a series of aerial surveillance missions had indicated that the two locations were being used as staging areas where the terrorist leaders and their fighters meet to plan and launch attacks.
According to Enenche, the military's fighter jets and helicopter gunships were deployed for the operation, resulted in the destruction of some of the terrorists' structures, as well as the neutralization of dozens of the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) militants.
He, however, did not give the exact figure of the militants killed.
Boko Haram has been trying to establish an Islamist state in northeastern Nigeria since 2009, extending its attacks to countries in the Lake Chad Basin.
The twin baby boys lay on a bed of woven palm leaves in a remote camp for displaced people in Yemen’s north, their collar bones and ribs visible. They cried loudly, twisting as if in pain, not from disease but from the hunger gnawing away at them.
Here, U.N. officials’ increasingly dire warnings that a hunger crisis is growing around the world are becoming reality, reports AP.
U.N. agencies have warned that some 250 million people in 20 countries are threatened with sharply spiking malnutrition or even famine in coming months.
The United Nations humanitarian office this week released $100 million in emergency funding to seven countries most at risk of famine — Yemen, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Congo, and Burkina Faso.
But David Beasley, head of the World Food Program, says billions in new aid are needed. Without it, “we are going to have famines of biblical proportions in 2021,” he said in an Associated Press interview last week.
In multiple countries, the coronavirus pandemic has added a new burden on top of the impact of ongoing wars, pushing more people into poverty, unable to afford food. At the same time, international aid funding has fallen short, weakening a safety net that keeps people alive.
In Afghanistan’s capital Kabul, Zemaray Hakimi said he can only give his children one meal a day, usually hard, black bread dunked in tea. He lost his work as a taxi driver after contracting COVID-19 and now waits daily on the street for day laborer work that rarely comes.
When his children complain of hunger, he said, “I tell them to bear it. One day maybe we can get something better.”
South Sudan may be closer than any other country to famine, as crisis after crisis wears on a population depleted by five years of civil war. The U.N. projected earlier this year that a quarter of the population of Jonglei State, home to more than 1.2 million, would reach the brink of famine.
Now cut off from much of the world by flooding that has affected some 1 million people, many South Sudanese have seen farming and other food routines ripped apart. The challenges are so numerous that “plastic sheets are not available, as they had largely been used for the previous flood response,” the U.N. humanitarian agency said this week.
COVID-19 has restricted trade and travel. Food prices rose. Post-war unrest remains deadly; gunmen recently fired on WFP boats carrying supplies.
“The convergence of conflict, macroeconomic crisis, recurrent flooding as well as the indirect impacts of COVID create a ‘perfect storm,’” the country director for the CARE aid group, Rosalind Crowther, said in an email. “Flooding and violence have led to massive displacement, low crop production and loss of livelihoods and livestock.”
In the Arabian peninsula, Yemen is on a “countdown to catastrophe,” Beasley, of the WFP, warned the Security Council last week.
“Famine is truly a real and dangerous possibility and the warning lights are ... flashing red — as red can be,” he said.
For years, Yemen has been the center of the world’s worst food crisis, driven by the destructive civil war between Iranian-backed Houthi rebels who took over the north and the capital, Sanaa, in 2014 and a Saudi-led coalition backing the government in the south.
International aid pulled it from the edge of famine two years ago. But the threat has surged back this year, fueled by increasing violence and a currency collapse that put food out of reach for growing numbers of people.
Donors have been wary of new funding because of corruption and restrictions that Houthis have put on humanitarian workers. The U.N. had to cut in half the rations it gives to 9 million people — and faces possible cuts to another 6 million in January.
The 18-month-old twins, Mohammed and Ali, weigh only about 3 kilograms, or 6.6 pounds, less than a third of the weight they should be, according to their doctor.
Their father, Hassan al-Jamai, was a farmer in northern Hajjah province near the border with Saudi Arabia. Soon after their birth, the family had to flee fighting to a displaced camp in the district of Abs.
“We are struggling to treat them,” said Mariam Hassam, the twins’ grandmother. “Their father took them everywhere.”
Two-thirds of Yemen’s population of about 28 million people are hungry. In the south, U.N. data from recent surveys show cases of severe acute malnutrition rose 15.5% this year, and at least 98,000 children under five could die of it.
By the end of the year, 41% of the south’s 8 million people are expected to have significant gaps in food consumption, up from 25%.
The situation could be worse in Sanaa and the north, home to more than 20 million people. The U.N. is currently conducting a similar survey there.
Sanaa’s main hospital, al-Sabeen, received over 180 cases of malnutrition and acute malnutrition the past three months, well over its capacities, according Amin al-Eizari, a nurse.
At least five children died at the hospital during that period, with more dying outside, he said.
In Afghanistan — like Yemen, crippled by war — the pandemic has meant further losses of jobs and mounting food prices. The poverty rate is expected to leap this year from 54% of the population of some 36 million to as high as 72%, according to World Bank projections.
Some 700,000 Afghan workers returned from Iran and Pakistan this year, fleeing coronavirus outbreaks. That halted millions of dollars in remittances, a key income for families in Afghanistan, and returnees flooded the ranks of those needing work.
Markets in Kabul seem full of food items. But shop owners say fewer customers can afford anything. More people are experiencing major gaps in their food — expected to rise to 42% of the population by the end of the year, from 25%, according to U.N. figures.
In the Bagrami displaced camp in the mountains surrounding Kabul, Gul Makai sat beside her mud-brick hut. She had spent the night shoveling out water and mud after the roof leaked in a recent snow. With early snows this year, temperatures have dropped below freezing.
Her 12 children, all 10 or younger, sat with her, hungry and shivering in the cold breeze. They were all thin. One daughter, Neamat, around 4, had the withered look that suggests malnutrition.
Makai fled seven months ago from her home in southern Helmand province after husband was killed in a crossfire between government forces and the Taliban. By begging, she scrounges up enough rice or hard bread to give her kids one meal a day. She eats every other day.
“The weather in winter will get colder,” she said. “If I don’t get help, my children may get sick, or God forbid I may lose any of them. We are in a bad condition.”
Eastern Congo marked an official end Thursday to the second deadliest Ebola outbreak in history, which killed 2,280 people over nearly two years, as armed rebels and community mistrust undermined the promise of new vaccines.
Thursday’s milestone was overshadowed, though, by the enormous health challenges still facing Congo: the world’s largest measles epidemic, the rising threat of COVID-19 and another new Ebola outbreak in the north.
“We are extremely proud to have been able to be victorious over an epidemic that lasted such a long time,” said Dr. Jean-Jacques Muyembe, who coordinated the national Ebola response and whose team also developed a new treatment for the once incurable hemorrhagic disease.
The announcement initially was set for April but another case emerged just three days before the Ebola-free declaration was expected. That restarted the 42-day waiting period required before such a proclamation can be made.
The epidemic, which began in August 2018, presented an unprecedented challenge for the World Health Organization, Congo’s Health Ministry and international aid groups because it was the first Ebola epidemic in a conflict zone.
Armed groups posed such a risk that vaccinations sometimes could only be carried out by small teams arriving by helicopter.
Only a few years earlier, West Africa’s Ebola epidemic killed more than 11,000, as at that time there was no licensed vaccine or treatment.
The COVID-19 outbreak in the region has been minimal so far, but the challenges of Ebola underscore how fraught it could be to test and treat those in areas under the control of armed rebels.
“Ebola has changed our culture,” said Esaie Ngalya, whose grandmother died from the virus. “Now I go to see my uncle but we don’t shake hands. In our culture that is considered disrespectful but now we have no choice because health comes first.