UN warning over school closures in NE Nigeria

Boko Haram's ongoing insurgency in northern Nigeria has forced the closure of more than 57 percent of schools in Borno state. (AP)
Updated 29 September 2017
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UN warning over school closures in NE Nigeria

LAGOS: Most schools in the state worst-hit by the Boko Haram conflict remain shut, the UN children’s agency said on Friday, blaming the militants for deliberating targeting education.
Unicef said at least 57 percent of schools in Borno state were closed as the new academic year began this month, with teacher numbers as well as buildings badly hit by the violence.
More than 2,295 teachers have been killed and 19,000 displaced, while nearly 1,400 schools have been destroyed in eight years of fighting, it added in a statement.
Schools were shut because they were too badly damaged or were located in areas still deemed unsafe despite a sustained military fight-back against the militants since 2015.
Unicef warned the situation threatened to create “a lost generation of children, threatening their and the country’s future” if nothing was done.
The agency’s deputy executive director Justin Forsyth said on a visit to the northeast that the effect of the insurgency on education was “no accident.”
“This was a deliberate strategy (by Boko Haram) to destroy opportunity for children to go to school,” he told AFP in a telephone interview from the Borno state capital, Maiduguri.
Boko Haram’s name roughly translates from the Hausa language spoken widely across northern Nigerian to “Western education is sin.”
Its fighters have repeatedly targeted schools teaching a secular curriculum.
In March last year, the Borno state government said 5,335 classrooms and school buildings in 512 primary, 38 secondary and two tertiary institutions had been damaged or destroyed.
Boko Haram’s kidnapping of more than 200 girls from their school in the Borno town of Chibok in April 2014 brought global attention to the conflict.
Forsyth said some three million children needed emergency education support but there was a huge shortfall to fund Unicef’s programs in the region, he added.
Some 750,000 children have been enrolled in school this year in Borno and neighboring Yobe and Adamawa, which have also been badly hit by the fighting.
For some, such as those in camps for those made homeless by the conflict, it is the first time they have received formal teaching.
Overall, at least 20,000 people have been killed in the fighting and more than 2.6 million made homeless.
Nigeria’s military and government claim the Daesh group affiliate is a spent force but attacks, including suicide bombings, remain a constant threat.
Unicef has repeatedly highlighted the effect of the insurgency on children and called the rebels’ use of boys and particularly girls as human bombs an “atrocity.”
As of late last month, 83 children had been strapped with explosives and used to carry out bomb attacks — four times as many as in all of last year.
The agency has also warned about acute food shortages that have left hundreds of thousands of people on the brink of famine in northeast Nigeria.
The UN’s head of humanitarian affairs and emergency relief, Mark Lowcock, said this month that the threat of famine had been “averted.”
Unicef said the intervention of aid agencies was making a difference but some 450,000 children under five were still expected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year.
Forsyth said there were currently some 2,800 cases of severe acute malnutrition at the camp in the border town of Banki and high numbers also in Maiduguri.
“It’s not out of control but the levels are very high,” he said, attributing the rise in cases in part to greater accessibility to areas previously cut off by the fighting.


Pompeo pledges close cooperation with India but trade, defense issues unresolved

Updated 26 June 2019
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Pompeo pledges close cooperation with India but trade, defense issues unresolved

  • But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave few specifics of how they would overcome disputes on issues
  • The disputes have led to higher trade tariffs by the two countries and created unease over the depth of their security alliance

NEW DELHI: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sought to reduce heightened trade tension with India on Wednesday, promising a renewed focus on negotiating improved trade and investment ties between the two nations.
But Pompeo, on a visit to India, gave few specifics of how they would overcome disputes on issues ranging from access to Indian markets for leading American companies to New Delhi’s demands for foreign firms to store Indian data in the country, and exports of steel and aluminum to the United States.
The two nations are “friends who can help each other all around the world,” Pompeo told a joint news conference with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar after they met.
The current differences were expressed “in the spirit of friendship,” he added.
The disputes have led to higher trade tariffs by the two countries and created unease over the depth of their security alliance.
In particular, the sudden introduction of new e-commerce rules for foreign investors in February angered the Americans because it showed New Delhi was prepared to move the goalposts to hurt two of the largest US companies, discount retailer Walmart, and Amazon.com Inc.
Walmart last year invested $16 billion to buy control of Indian e-commerce firm Flipkart.
Just days before Pompeo’s visit, India slapped higher retaliatory tariffs on 28 US products following Washington’s withdrawal of key trade privileges for New Delhi.
Jaishankar, a former Indian ambassador to the United States, played down the spat on Wednesday.
“If you trade with someone and they are your biggest trading partner, it is impossible you don’t have trade issues,” he said.
India’s ties with Russia and Iran, both now subject to US sanctions, are also a sore point.
US pressure has led India to stop buying oil from Iran, a top energy supplier. The United States has also stepped up pressure on India not to proceed with its purchase of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems from Russia.
The missile deal and Iranian oil were both discussed during their meeting, Jaishankar and Pompeo said, but mentioned no resolution of either at the news conference.
Earlier, Pompeo met Prime Minister Narendra Modi for talks at his official residence in the capital, New Delhi, and they exchanged handshakes in images broadcast on television.
“The Prime Minister expressed his strong commitment to achieve the full potential of bilateral relations in trade and economy, energy, defense, counterterrorism and people-to-people contacts,” the foreign ministry said in a statement, without elaborating.
Pompeo is expected to round off the trip with a policy speech hosted by the US embassy, before departing on Thursday for a summit of leaders of the Group of 20 nations in Japan.