Mrs Aisha Buhari, wife of the President of Nigeria, and her counterparts in Cameroon, Chad and Niger have unveiled a humanitarian support initiative for women and children affected by the Boko Haram crisis.
Buhari, at the event organised in conjunction with the UN Population Fund at the margin of the UN General Assembly, said the situation in Lake Chad Basin is peculiar among the countries in the region.
The wife of the President of Nigeria, represented by Mrs Toyin Saraki, wife of Nigerian Senate President, regretted that women and children bore the brunt of the protracted crisis.
She said the Boko Haram insurgency had pushed the area into a situation that has consumed lives and property and rendered millions of people homeless and without a livelihood.
Buhari pointed out the socio-economic reality of the basin, saying the people of the area were one of the most productive in the world through fishing, livestock development and farming.
“These are the people that have lost not just their livelihood but even their life investments and culture.
“This is the picture that drew the attention of the first ladies of the four countries sharing the basin.
“As mothers, we were quick to observe that women and children affected by the insurgency are the most vulnerable cohort of the population.
“And we must make our contribution to ensure that they are supported through these hard times.
“My sisters in this effort and I have come to the painful realisation that the cost of inaction is too high to imagined.
“And therefore we agreed to support in the area of protection, early recovery and rebuilding of livelihoods, education, nutrition, health, water and sanitation,” she said.
Buhari said the initiative was without prejudice to the ongoing support provided by governments and other actors whose programmes would reach millions in the region.
According to her, the initiative was nurtured with technical and financial support from UN agencies resident in these countries, especially the UN Population Fund.
“The unveiling of the initiative, therefore, was to create awareness on the humanitarian problem and alert the global community with a view to spurring them to action.
“We will also unveil our action plan to ameliorate the suffering of those affected by this crisis.
“Our humanity is easily proven by the commitment we show to share in and reduce the pain of other humans who are down on their luck,” Buhari said.
She called on governments and humanitarian actors to come and join them to make a difference by showing commitment to intervene in the many areas requiring urgent intervention.
“Let us be counted not just for the purpose of our humanity but also for the sake of history and posterity,” she said.
The Acting Executive Director of UNFPA, Dr Natalia Kanem, recalled the contributions of late UNFPA boss, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin in drawing global awareness and galvanising support for the crisis.
Kanem, however, regretted that the basin still faced one of the worst global humanitarian crises, adding that women and children faced the brunt of the crisis.
According to her, UNFPA is committed to supporting women and girls, saying the UN agency reached over a million women and girls in the area with various relief supports.
Kanem pledged that UNFPA was committed to working with the first ladies of the Lake Chad Basin countries to ensure the success of the initiative.
Representatives of the wives of the Presidents of Cameroon, Chad and Niger as well as wives of state governors, donor agencies and partners attended the unveiling of the initiative.