Nearly 1,000 women struggling to put food on their tables in Boko Haram-hit northeast Nigeria have received goats as emergency assistance, the United Nations said on Thursday. The region is threatened with famine after the militants' eight-year insurgency to create an Islamic state, which has killed more than 20,000 people and forced some 2.7 million people to flee their homes.
Many women, traditionally responsible for small livestock, have had their animals stolen or were forced to leave them behind to escape, leaving them with virtually no source of food and money for their families, aid agencies say.
"Many are alone because ... men have left, been injured, disabled or even killed," Patrick David, Nigeria country representative for the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
FAO said it delivered 3,600 goats to about 900 women in the northeastern Borno state. Each received three breeding females and one male.
The "emergency distribution" targeted families hit hardest by the conflict, such as those displaced or who recently returned home in areas taken back by the Nigerian Army, the agency said in a statement.
"My husband is paralysed for last 5 years due to injuries sustained during the conflict. As an only earning member, I will keep these goats to reproduce so we can sell some of them and buy grains," Bintu Usman, 35, was quoted as saying by the FAO.
Families living in towns or villages where displaced people have sought shelter also received help, said David.
"Animal restocking is crucial for the benefit of women for whom goats play a major role for the household nutrition security through the provision of milk and a source of revenue," he said.
More than 5 million people do not have enough to eat in the northeastern Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states, including 50,000 living in famine-like conditions.
Boko Haram has been pushed out of most of a swathe of land around the size of Belgium that it controlled in early 2015 by Nigeria's army and troops from neighbouring countries.
But insurgents continue to carry out suicide bombings and raids in northeast Nigeria, as well as in Cameroon and Niger.