ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged international donors to sustain funding for humanitarian operations in Africa and across the world even as they respond to the Ukraine crisis.
Addressing reporters in Nigeria as he wrapped up his three-nation tour of West Africa, the U.N. chief said donors should actually increase funding for global aid so as not to “undermine” development activities in Africa and other parts of the world.
With the Russian invasion of Ukraine now a full-scale war, many countries have sent relief aid to Ukraine, which its leader President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said needs $7 billion in relief funding per month.
“My appeal is for those that support financially the United Nations not to divert funds from other humanitarian and development forms of cooperation to the Ukraine crisis,” Guterres said. He urged donor nations to “put additional contributions for that (Ukraine) crisis and not undermine the efforts in humanitarian and development cooperations that are taking place all around the world.”
Earlier this week Guterres visited the West African countries of Senegal and Niger.
In northeastern Nigeria where the impact of the 12-year Islamic extremist insurgency in the country’s northeast has been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, 8.4 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, U.N. data shows.
However, there are already signs that the war in Ukraine has caused a decline in donations for relief operations in Nigeria, according to Priscilla Bayo Nicholas, a nutrition specialist with the U.N. children’s agency.
“The situation in Ukraine is affecting us here. (It is) affecting the program in Nigeria because now most of the funding is diverted to respond to Ukraine’s crisis … meanwhile, we also have a nutrition crisis here,” said Nicholas in Borno state, the center of Nigeria’s humanitarian crisis.
A key step in responding to humanitarian crises globally would be to “reform the global financial system … designed by the rich, for the rich,” said Guterres in Abuja.
”As we face a situation that requires urgent action, we must make greater use of all available mechanisms for the benefit of developing countries, including middle-income countries, especially in Africa,” he said.
While in Nigeria, Guterres visited the northeast region where he met with former extremists who have defected from the camps of the Boko Haram jihadi group and its offshoot Islamic State West Africa Province.
The jihadi insurgency in northeast Nigeria is blamed for the deaths of 35,000 people and displacing 2.1 million, according to U.N.
In Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, Guterres laid a wreath Wednesday in honor of the 23 people who died in 2011 when Boko Haram bombed the United Nations office building in the West African country. Many of those killed were U.N. staffers.
“Today, the U.N. family stands in solidarity with the victims’ families, as well as the women and men who work at U.N. House every day, to serve and support the people of Nigeria,” Guterres said. “And we stand in solidarity with all Nigerians who have endured similar violence in their own communities.”