Why I’ve been passionate with my job as UN humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria – Edward Kallon

Veteran humanitarian and United Nations’ foremost representative in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, has recently revealed why he accepted and passionately went about his job as head of the United Nations Office for the coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in the country.

Mr Kallon who has nearly clocked his fifth, (and perhaps final) year as UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria said his decision to work in Africa’s most populous and largest economy was rather emotional than resonding to official call to duty. 

The Sierra Leonean aid worker said his coming to Nigeria five years ago was more of a give-back and appreciation mission to the people and government that gave their all to save his “small country” from the abyss of extinction. 

“I took over this responsibility with a passion; and that passion is to see how I can pay back Nigeria,” he said. 

“If it is not Nigeria, there would not have been peace in my small country, called Sierra Leone; my small country would not be existing. 

“It was this great men and women who went to rescue us from the pains that our people went through,” he said. 

Mr Kallon made this comment recently at a public function in Maiduguri, Borno state capital.

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator had at the event organized by the North East Development Commission (NEDC) and the ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development (NEDC). 

The Humanitarian Times had reported that the NEDC  had an elaborate occasion handed over 1000 newly built houses to the Borno state government for onward occupation by the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) 

The veteran Sierra Leonean humanitarian worker who has been in Nigeria for nearly five years now said though he has almost come to the end of his stay in the country, he still found it difficult to “understand” the nature of the Boko Haram crisis. 

“I have studied this crisis but still I don’t understand it. I was in Geneva recently and was talking to experts I said I have been in the country for some time studying this crisis, and I really don’t understand it,” Mr Kallon remarked while delivering a goodwill message at the recent handing over of 1000 units of house by the Northeast Development Commission (NEDC) to Borno IDPs. 

Mr Kallon and Governor Zulum in the field

“But I have come to conclude that if the people of the northeast region want this to stop, it will stop. You don’t wait for the government. Just say no, it has to stop, and we have to move on with our lives – this is the solution,” he said.

“I have been with the struggle of the people of northern Nigeria for over four years. The years have rolled by and I am so happy as I count down to my last five years – just few months to go. I can see light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. 

“What I am seeing here today is what I have described in my memoirs that I have been writing as improvement in the national leadership and ownership.

“Let me give few examples of that National leadership and ownership. When we came to support the efforts of the government there was series of challenges in coordinating the response in Northeast Nigeria. His excellency, the president of the federal republic of Nigeria, established the ministry of humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development as a coordinating body both humanitarian and recovering efforts for northeast Nigeria and Nigeria as a whole. 

“After that we went through another milestone in the establishment of the NEDC. Again, few weeks ago, starting from the 19th of August with the world humanitarian day, in indeed there rise another led revolution in that direction. This was the time the minister of Humanitarian affairs unveiled the national framework for the Humanitarian development and peace and closely knit was also the unveiling of the national framework for the station of the response in northeast Nigeria.

“Just yesterday (Wednesday) there was a national policy for the internally displaced persons as approved by the president of the country.”

Mr Kallon hailed the Nigerian government for crafting three key new policies which he described as “institutional building blocks” needed to find a lasting solution to this conflict. 

“As I always say, there is no development without peace just as there is no peace without development… peace and development can always take place where you have strong institutions. And these are the institutional building blocks that we are putting in place. 

He said when he arrived Borno state on Wednesday he had to visit the town of Bama on a mission to “understand the critical concept of surrendering”. 

“You can agree with me that from day one I have been preaching that there is no humanitarian solution to humanitarian crisis – that humanitarian assistance can alleviate human sufferings; it can bring hope and succor to the affected population – but the only solution to this problem is peace.”

“As my military brothers will always say there is both kinetic and non-kinetic approach that must be pursued in tandem in search with other solutions. 

“With what the NEDC is doing here today, I am so relieved that of the fact finally there is a horizon out there to get people back on their feet. 

“Let me tell you a story on where did we get the concept of stabilization? It was myself and Governor Babagana Zulum; the first few houses that he commissioned in Ngwom; one day I went to Ngwom and I heaved that there is hope. Then I went to Germany and talked to Germans I said listen we cannot continue with what we are doing, we must find alternative options and then we …back to the stabilization strategy… and the need for reconciliation was highlighted. 

Mr Kallon said, earlier, he “was still extremely worried about the food security situation in Northeast Nigeria.” 

“The figures are big, the numbers are big, but again I have seen another demonstration of national leadership and ownership where the government through the ministry of humanitarian affairs and NEDC have decided to take a bold step of trying to bring succor to the affected population.

Edward Kallon is the United Nations Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria. Kallon is also the Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme in Nigeria (UNDP). He held a similar position for the past in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, where he was also the Representative of the United Nations Population Fund in Jordan (UNFPA) and the Designated Official for Security. 

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