Humanitarian aid agencies are currently rethinking their deployment to all vulnerable “deep field” locations in the North-East axis of Nigeria, following an attack by Boko Haram fighters on Dikwa, Borno State, this week .
United Nations reportedly commenced evacuation of aid workers out of humanitarian hubs in Monguno and Ngala, Northern Borno, following the overrunning of Dikwa and the siege on the organisation’s compound by terrorists.
Aid workers were forced to shelter in a bunker during a multipronged attack by insurgents belonging to Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) between Monday evening and Tuesday morning, which led to the capture of the garrison town.
The current onslaught by the terrorists is at least the fourth attack on Dikwa in 2021, with two of them happening within 24 hours.
At least two other non-governmental organisations’ compounds housing offices and guesthouses were set ablaze by the insurgents during the attack. The insurgents also took four vehicles.
The last time an attack of this magnitude was in September 2018 in Baga.
UN initiated the evacuation of aid workers from the humanitarian hubs in the garrison towns of Monguno and Ngala over fears the overrunning of Dikwa poses due to the proximity to the two towns.
The connection was lost with the hub in Dikwa around midnight.
UN facilities in recent times have suffered attacks, leading to the deaths of aid workers and the abduction of others.
In June 2020, ISWAP members attacked the humanitarian hub in Monguno from two entry points, where over 50 aid workers were present when the attack was conducted, the UN said.
Similarly, on January 18 2020, a whole section of a humanitarian hub in Ngala, close to the Cameroonian border, was set on fire. The five workers in the compound at the time escaped unscathed.
Another similar attack in Rann, Kala Balge Local Government Area of Borno also saw an attack that led to the deaths of four Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and a badly damaged hub belonging to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
Twenty-six aid workers were forced to shelter in the hub’s recently constructed bunker on 1 March – and into the next day – as the assault by ISWAP continued.
It was the fourth attack this year on Dikwa – one of the military’s “super camps” and where it has concentrated its forces. ISWAP ransacked and torched the hospital and the offices of several international NGOs in the town.
They also assured residents they weren’t the targets and wouldn’t be harmed if they stayed indoors, and reportedly distributed money.
CARE’s Country Director, Hussaini Abdu, who said six civilians died in the fighting, added, “there’s a feeling of helplessness: the realisation that we are targets for these people, and also that we can’t get protection from the government.”
Aid work has been suspended in Dikwa, where close to 100,000 displaced people from the countryside have sheltered. Abdu said he was particularly shocked that the town’s people vandalised aid offices after the attack.
“Maybe it’s our own fault over how we engage with communities, but that really hurt”, he added. For more on the evolution of aid worker security globally,