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When help can’t wait: Stabilization and recovery in North-East Nigeria

Rachid Benmessaoud's picture
IDPs in North-East Nigeria. Photo by Immanuel Afolabi, 
The Center on Conflict and Development at Texas A&M University

Oumar (not his real name) lives with his parents and six younger siblings in a camp for internally displaced people (IDPs) in North-East Nigeria. They dream of returning to their home that they abandoned when Boko Haram insurgents attacked their village.
 
Oumar and his family are not alone. The Boko Haram insurgency has caused untold devastation. Since 2009, it is estimated that over 20,000 people have been killed and over two million displaced. In North-East Nigeria, where 80% of the people rely on agriculture for their livelihood, the economic impact has been brutal, with farmers forced from their land, livestock killed, and continued insecurity preventing a safe return in many areas.
 
In a region that has suffered so much, how can the global community support recovery?
 
As a first step, the Nigerian government asked the World Bank in August 2015 for help in assessing the damage and corresponding needs in the North-East. An empirical evidence base and reliable data are critical for informed decision making, as the government moves forward not only to fix the brick and mortar, but to mend the hearts and minds that have been hurt by the violence.
 
In response, a joint team of the World Bank, the European Union (EU), and the United Nations (UN), working closely under the government’s leadership, initiated the North-East Nigeria Recovery and Peace Building Assessment (RPBA), a comprehensive analysis of damages and estimated needs resulting from the Boko Haram crisis. It began with a comprehensive conflict analysis that served as the backbone of the assessment, including the underlying drivers to provide an integrated approach to peace building and recovery.

The RPBA covered the six most affected states in North-East Nigeria: Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba, and Yobe. Collecting data in six states across twenty sectors was challenging, particularly given the sensitive security environment that prevails in some areas. Where information was scarce or areas inaccessible, we relied on remote sensing technology, a combination of satellite imagery, social media analytics and information received from partner networks.
 
Another feature of this assessment was that it was done while violence was still ongoing in parts of the region. Given the urgent needs on the ground, the assessment was concluded within 3 months. It was a rewarding experience, to work together with partners – EU, UN, and the Federal, State and Local governments – towards a common goal. Early, coordinated and rapid engagement from multiple partners also helps to bridge the gap between critical life-saving humanitarian assistance, and sustainable and durable solutions to impacts of conflict and forced displacement. 

The findings will be used by Federal, State and Local governments as well as partner organizations to develop stabilization and recovery plans. Given the complex context, sequencing the recovery and peace building interventions is essential to ensuring a realistic response to the crisis.
 
The Nigerian government presented the findings last month at the Second Regional Security Summit in Abuja, held in solidarity with the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) member countries, and Benin.

It was encouraging to see Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari highlighting the importance of post-conflict recovery and reconciliation. The communiqué issued at the close of the summit encouraged Nigeria to set up “a Coordinating Mechanism for the post-conflict rehabilitation and development of the North East region of Nigeria based upon the findings of the Recovery and Peace Building Assessment” with the assistance of United States, United Kingdom, France, EU and the World Bank.
 
At the federal level, the Government of Nigeria has committed to creating a plan of action to prioritize and sequence stabilization and recovery interventions. States are also developing detailed action plans based on their unique contexts and priorities.
 
The RPBA is already informing World Bank investments in North-East Nigeria, which initially include $575 million in additional financing to support some of the priority areas that were identified in four areas: agriculture, social protection, health and education.
 
The road to recovery will undoubtedly have challenges, but by working closely together with the government and partners, a timely assessment can help to provide clarity of purpose and specificity of actions. We hope that collectively, these efforts will help Nigeria see through these tumultuous times and help Oumar and his family move closer to their dream of returning home safely.