UN Cuts Aid to Nigeria Area After Militant Ambush

After a Boko Haram ambush of a humanitarian convey, the United Nations is suspending aid to dangerous areas of Nigeria’s northeastern Borno state, where it says a half million people are starving, after Boko Haram ambushed a humanitarian convoy.

Three civilians including a UNICEF employee and contractor for the International Organization for Migration were wounded in Thursday’s ambush, along with two of the soldiers escorting the humanitarian workers, according to the Nigerian army and the U.N. Children’s Fund.

“Only the U.N. missions outside the capital have been suspended,” UNICEF spokeswoman Doune Porter told The Associated Press on Friday. “The normal assistance we have been giving will continue in Maiduguri,” the Borno state capital of 1 million people that hosts another million refugees from Nigeria’s 7-year-old Islamic insurgency.

The attacked convoy was traveling from the city of Bama, newly freed from Boko Haram, where Doctors Without Borders has warned that children are dying every day with 15 percent suffering severe acute malnutrition and likely to die without food and medical aid.

More than 500,000 people are suffering a “catastrophic humanitarian crisis” in dangerous-to-reach areas, said the doctors.

A Doctors Without Borders vehicle traveling with a military escort set off a land mine earlier this week a few kilometers (miles) from the scene of Thursday’s ambush but no one was hurt, according to soldiers who were there. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to reporters.

“People are gathered, isolated and cut off in a half-destroyed town and are totally dependent on external assistance, which is cruelly lacking,” Hugues Robert, Doctors Without Borders’ emergency program manager told Wednesday. “If we don’t manage quickly to provide them with food, water and urgent medical supplies, malnutrition and disease will continue to wreak havoc.”

Army spokesman Col. Sani Kukasheka Usman said the insurgents were hiding in Meleri village near Kawuri, the official gateway to the sprawling Sambisa Forest that has been a Boko Haram stronghold. The military warned earlier this month that Boko Haram fighters were fleeing its daily aerial bombardments and ground attacks in the forest, heading toward the border with Cameroon.