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The State Of Boko Haram


Nigeria is facing one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world according to the U.N. The combination of an ongoing Boko Haram insurgency and drought have left millions at risk of starvation. Peter Lundberg is the U.N.'s deputy humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria.


PETER LUNDBERG: 5.2 million people are seriously food insecure. And currently, there is about 1.4 million which are in a critical phase, which is basically one step away from a famine.

MARTIN: NPR's Africa correspondent Ofeibea Quist-Arcton joins us on the line from Maiduguri in northeastern Nigeria. Ofeibea, you've been there for a few days now. What are you seeing? What's the security situation like there?

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Security is still tight, but Boko Haram is still able to strike. On Sunday, which was the end of the Ramadan holy fasting month, Eid, or Sallah, as they call it here, was celebrated here in Maiduguri, the metropolis. You saw children wearing the most glorious local African print outfits. Everybody seemed to be having fun. And yet, in the night, Boko Haram struck again - about a dozen people killed, the university here. And of course, the university teaches in English. And Boko Haram's name is Western education is sinful. They targeted it again. So you cannot get away from Boko Haram, even when people are trying to celebrate and trying to be happy.

MARTIN: And at the same time, they're combating the violence coming from Boko Haram. And this drought has made just putting food on the table virtually impossible for a lot of people.

QUIST-ARCTON: As you heard Peter Lundberg from the U.N. say, we're talking up to 7 million people who the U.N. says are facing food insecurity - and many, many children. You know, we were at a clinic yesterday, Rachel. A malnourished child, Omar - he's 2. He looks as if he's a few months old. That is the problem here. Many, many children are suffering from acute malnutrition. Adults, too, because there is not enough food to go around. We're in between farming seasons, in between harvest seasons here, the lean season. So the U.N. is saying, you know, it needs a lot of money to be able to help these people and to help farmers.

MARTIN: Some of our listeners will remember - many will remember that Boko Haram was capturing all these global headlines because they'd kidnapped this group of nearly 300 schoolgirls three years ago. I understand, though, they are not the only ones to be held in captivity, are they?

QUIST-ARCTON: And Rachel, it's often forgotten. Thousands of girls, boys, women and men have been abducted by Boko Haram during this eight-year insurgency. We met just two of them yesterday, an 18-year-old who was impregnated by her Boko Haram, quotes, "husband" after she was abducted, and a 20-year-old. Both, at that young age, have become mothers, robbed of their childhood. But they say they forgive because they have beautiful children. But this is the reality here. And of course the focus has been on the Chibok girls because 300 were abducted at one time. But we have to remember the many, many others who are also survivors and suffering.

MARTIN: NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is reporting all this week from Maiduguri in northeastern Nigeria. Ofeibea, thank you so much.

QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure. Thank you.


Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is an award-winning broadcaster from Ghana and is NPR's Africa Correspondent. She describes herself as a "jobbing journalist"—who's often on the hoof, reporting from somewhere.