Famine killing tens of thousands in Boko Haram region

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Famine killing thousands in Boko Haram regions
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Famine killing thousands in Boko Haram regions
Nursing staff monitor as mothers feed their malnourished children admitted to the In-Patient Therapeutic Feeding Centre in the Gwangwe district of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, northeastern Nigeria, on September 17, 2016. Aid agencies have long warned about the risk of food shortages in northeast Nigeria because of the conflict, which has killed at least 20,000 since 2009 and left more than 2.6 million homeless. In July, the United Nations said nearly 250,000 children under five could suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year in Borno state alone and one in five -- some 50,000 -- could die. But despite the huge numbers involved, the situation has received little attention compared with other humanitarian crises around the world -- even within Nigeria. / AFP / STEFAN HEUNIS (Photo credit should read STEFAN HEUNIS/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman holds her young baby during a check-up at the In-Patient Therapeutic Feeding Centre in the Gwangwe district of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, northeastern Nigeria, on September 17, 2016. Aid agencies have long warned about the risk of food shortages in northeast Nigeria because of the conflict, which has killed at least 20,000 since 2009 and left more than 2.6 million homeless. In July, the United Nations said nearly 250,000 children under five could suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year in Borno state alone and one in five -- some 50,000 -- could die. But despite the huge numbers involved, the situation has received little attention compared with other humanitarian crises around the world -- even within Nigeria. / AFP / STEFAN HEUNIS (Photo credit should read STEFAN HEUNIS/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman looks over her young boy admitted in the In-Patient Therapeutic Feeding Centre in the Gwangwe district of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, northeastern Nigeria, on September 17, 2016. Aid agencies have long warned about the risk of food shortages in northeast Nigeria because of the conflict, which has killed at least 20,000 since 2009 and left more than 2.6 million homeless. In July, the United Nations said nearly 250,000 children under five could suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year in Borno state alone and one in five -- some 50,000 -- could die. But despite the huge numbers involved, the situation has received little attention compared with other humanitarian crises around the world -- even within Nigeria. / AFP / STEFAN HEUNIS (Photo credit should read STEFAN HEUNIS/AFP/Getty Images)
A medical staff measures a young boy admitted in the In-Patient Therapeutic Feeding Centre in the Gwangwe district of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, northeastern Nigeria, on September 17, 2016. Aid agencies have long warned about the risk of food shortages in northeast Nigeria because of the conflict, which has killed at least 20,000 since 2009 and left more than 2.6 million homeless. In July, the United Nations said nearly 250,000 children under five could suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year in Borno state alone and one in five -- some 50,000 -- could die. But despite the huge numbers involved, the situation has received little attention compared with other humanitarian crises around the world -- even within Nigeria. / AFP / STEFAN HEUNIS (Photo credit should read STEFAN HEUNIS/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A woman and a young girl young child suffering from severe malnutrition sleep on a bed in the ICU ward at the In-Patient Therapeutic Feeding Centre in the Gwangwe district of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, northeastern Nigeria, on September 17, 2016. Aid agencies have long warned about the risk of food shortages in northeast Nigeria because of the conflict, which has killed at least 20,000 since 2009 and left more than 2.6 million homeless. In July, the United Nations said nearly 250,000 children under five could suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year in Borno state alone and one in five -- some 50,000 -- could die. But despite the huge numbers involved, the situation has received little attention compared with other humanitarian crises around the world -- even within Nigeria. / AFP / STEFAN HEUNIS (Photo credit should read STEFAN HEUNIS/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A young child suffering from severe malnutrition lies on a bed in the ICU ward at the In-Patient Therapeutic Feeding Centre in the Gwangwe district of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, northeastern Nigeria, on September 17, 2016. Aid agencies have long warned about the risk of food shortages in northeast Nigeria because of the conflict, which has killed at least 20,000 since 2009 and left more than 2.6 million homeless. In July, the United Nations said nearly 250,000 children under five could suffer from severe acute malnutrition this year in Borno state alone and one in five -- some 50,000 -- could die. But despite the huge numbers involved, the situation has received little attention compared with other humanitarian crises around the world -- even within Nigeria. / AFP / STEFAN HEUNIS (Photo credit should read STEFAN HEUNIS/AFP/Getty Images)
This photo taken on June 30, 2016 shows a young baby boy suffering from severe acute malnutrition, in the Muna informal settlement, which houses nearly 16,000 IDPs (internally displaced people) in the outskirts of Maiduguri capital of Borno State, northeastern Nigeria. Nigeria has pledged to do more to tackle food shortages among people made homeless by Boko Haram, as the United Nations warned some 50,000 children could starve to death this year in one northeastern state alone. / AFP / STEFAN HEUNIS (Photo credit should read STEFAN HEUNIS/AFP/Getty Images)
This photo taken on June 30, 2016 shows a malnourished boy walking towards his mother at one of the Unicef nutrition clinics, in the Muna informal settlement, which houses nearly 16,000 IDPs (internally displaced people) in the outskirts of Maiduguri capital of Borno State, northeastern Nigeria. Nigeria has pledged to do more to tackle food shortages among people made homeless by Boko Haram, as the United Nations warned some 50,000 children could starve to death this year in one northeastern state alone. / AFP / STEFAN HEUNIS (Photo credit should read STEFAN HEUNIS/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - This photo taken on June 30, 2016 shows a woman measuring the diameter of a girl's arm suffering from severe acute malnutrition, in the Muna informal settlement, which houses nearly 16,000 IDPs (internally displaced people) in the outskirts of Maiduguri capital of Borno State, northeastern Nigeria. Nigeria has pledged to do more to tackle food shortages among people made homeless by Boko Haram, as the United Nations warned some 50,000 children could starve to death this year in one northeastern state alone. / AFP / STEFAN HEUNIS (Photo credit should read STEFAN HEUNIS/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - A photo taken on June 30, 2016 shows the emaciated legs of a young boy suffering from severe acute malnutrition in the Muna informal settlement, which houses nearly 16,000 IDPs (internally displaced people) in the outskirts of Maiduguri capital of Borno State, northeastern Nigeria. Nigeria has pledged to do more to tackle food shortages among people made homeless by Boko Haram, as the United Nations warned some 50,000 children could starve to death this year in one northeastern state alone. / AFP / STEFAN HEUNIS (Photo credit should read STEFAN HEUNIS/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - This photo taken on June 30, 2016 shows a young boy suffering from severe acute malnutrition lying on the ground at one of the Unicef nutrition clinics, in the Muna informal settlement, which houses nearly 16,000 IDPs (internally displaced people) in the outskirts of Maiduguri capital of Borno State, northeastern Nigeria. Nigeria has pledged to do more to tackle food shortages among people made homeless by Boko Haram, as the United Nations warned some 50,000 children could starve to death this year in one northeastern state alone. / AFP / STEFAN HEUNIS (Photo credit should read STEFAN HEUNIS/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - This photo taken on June 30, 2016 shows a boy suffering from severe acute malnutrition sitting at one of the Unicef nutrition clinics, in the Muna informal settlement, which houses nearly 16,000 IDPs (internally displaced people) in the outskirts of Maiduguri capital of Borno State, northeastern Nigeria. Nigeria has pledged to do more to tackle food shortages among people made homeless by Boko Haram, as the United Nations warned some 50,000 children could starve to death this year in one northeastern state alone. / AFP / STEFAN HEUNIS (Photo credit should read STEFAN HEUNIS/AFP/Getty Images)
This photo taken on June 30, 2016 shows a girl waiting in the queue at one of the Unicef nutrition clinics, in the Muna informal settlement, which houses nearly 16,000 IDPs (internally displaced people) in the outskirts of Maiduguri capital of Borno State, northeastern Nigeria. Nigeria has pledged to do more to tackle food shortages among people made homeless by Boko Haram, as the United Nations warned some 50,000 children could starve to death this year in one northeastern state alone. / AFP / STEFAN HEUNIS (Photo credit should read STEFAN HEUNIS/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - This photo taken on June 30, 2016 shows a young girl suffering from severe acute malnutrition getting weighed at one of the Unicef nutrition clinics, in the Muna informal settlement, which houses nearly 16,000 IDPs (internally displaced people) in the outskirts of Maiduguri capital of Borno State, northeastern Nigeria. Nigeria has pledged to do more to tackle food shortages among people made homeless by Boko Haram, as the United Nations warned some 50,000 children could starve to death this year in one northeastern state alone. / AFP / STEFAN HEUNIS (Photo credit should read STEFAN HEUNIS/AFP/Getty Images)
This photo taken on June 30, 2016 shows a man wearing a scarf as a protection from the sun, in the Muna informal settlement, which houses nearly 16,000 IDPs (internally displaced people) in the outskirts of Maiduguri capital of Borno State, northeastern Nigeria. Nigeria has pledged to do more to tackle food shortages among people made homeless by Boko Haram, as the United Nations warned some 50,000 children could starve to death this year in one northeastern state alone. / AFP / STEFAN HEUNIS (Photo credit should read STEFAN HEUNIS/AFP/Getty Images)
This photo taken on June 30, 2016 shows a woman holding her child while waiting in a queue at one of the Unicef nutrition clinics in Muna informal settlement, in the outskirts of Maiduguri capital of Borno State, northeastern Nigeria. Nigeria has pledged to do more to tackle food shortages among people made homeless by Boko Haram, as the United Nations warned some 50,000 children could starve to death this year in one northeastern state alone. / AFP / STEFAN HEUNIS (Photo credit should read STEFAN HEUNIS/AFP/Getty Images)
This photo taken on June 14, 2016 shows employees working at the Societe de Transformation Alimentaire (STA, or Food Transformation Company) in the industrial area of Niamey, a company that manufactures 'Plumpy Nut' food, which contains vitamins, proteins and all neccesary nutriments to fight malnutrition. Plumpy Nut is now manufactured locally, a few kilometers away in the industrial area of Niamey, by the Societe de Transformation Alimentaire (STA, or Food Transformation Company). Niger has been repeatedly plagued by food and humanitarian crises, as more than 300,000 people have been displaced. 240,000 have fled the atrocities of the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram in the southeast, while 60,000 have fled to Niger to escape the Islamist groups in Mali. / AFP / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
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GENEVA (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of people are dying of hunger in the area of west Africa where Boko Haram militants are active, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for the region, told a news conference on Friday.

About 65,000 people are in a "catastrophe" or "phase 5" situation, according to a food security assessment by the IPC, the recognized classification system on declaring famines.

SEE ALSO: Nigerian army faces new dangers in Boko Haram campaign

Phase 5 applies when, even with humanitarian assistance, "starvation, death and destitution" are evident.

"The tragedy of using the F word is that when you apply it it's too late," said Toby Lanzer, who has also worked in South Sudan, Darfur and Chechnya.

Boko Haram militants have killed about 15,000 people and displaced more than 2 million in a seven-year insurgency and they still launch deadly attacks despite having been pushed out of the vast swathes of territory they controlled in 2014.

"This is the first time I've come across people talking about phase 5. The reason for that was simply a lack of access. We couldn't get to places," Lanzer said.

"Because of the insecurity sown almost exclusively by Boko Haram, people have missed three planting seasons."

Related: See how Boko Haram has affected life in Cameroon:

30 PHOTOS
Boko Haram violence affecting life in Cameroon
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Boko Haram violence affecting life in Cameroon
Timada Bokar, a member of a civilian vigilante group, holds an artisanal pistol in Kerawa, Cameroon, March 16, 2016. Kerawa is on the border with Nigeria and is subject to frequent Boko Haram attacks. After watching its influence spread during a six-year campaign that has killed around 15,000 people according to the U.S. military, Nigeria has now united with its neighbours to stamp out Boko Haram. An 8,700-strong regional force of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria is seeking to finish the job. Outside Nigeria, Cameroon has been hardest hit by Boko Haram, which now operates out of bases in the Mandara Mountains, Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad. REUTERS/Joe Penney SEARCH "KOLOFATA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A member of a civilian vigilante group carries a bow and arrow while running on patrol with the Cameroonian military in Kerawa, Cameroon, March 16, 2016. Kerawa is on the border with Nigeria and is subject to frequent Boko Haram attacks. After watching its influence spread during a six-year campaign that has killed around 15,000 people according to the U.S. military, Nigeria has now united with its neighbours to stamp out Boko Haram. An 8,700-strong regional force of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria is seeking to finish the job. Outside Nigeria, Cameroon has been hardest hit by Boko Haram, which now operates out of bases in the Mandara Mountains, Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad. REUTERS/Joe Penney SEARCH "KOLOFATA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A security officer scans a woman entering a health clinic at Minawao refugee camp in Minawao, Cameroon, March 15, 2016. The camp has a population of over 56,600 people, according to camp officials. After watching its influence spread during a six-year campaign that has killed around 15,000 people according to the U.S. military, Nigeria has now united with its neighbours to stamp out Boko Haram. An 8,700-strong regional force of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria is seeking to finish the job. Outside Nigeria, Cameroon has been hardest hit by Boko Haram, which now operates out of bases in the Mandara Mountains, Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad. REUTERS/Joe Penney SEARCH "KOLOFATA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Houses are seen in a village outside Kolofata, Cameroon, March 16, 2016. After watching its influence spread during a six-year campaign that has killed around 15,000 people according to the U.S. military, Nigeria has now united with its neighbours to stamp out Boko Haram. An 8,700-strong regional force of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria is seeking to finish the job. Outside Nigeria, Cameroon has been hardest hit by Boko Haram, which now operates out of bases in the Mandara Mountains, Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad. REUTERS/Joe Penney SEARCH "KOLOFATA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A blackboard with translations of French phrases into the Kanuri language is seen at a Cameroonian military base in Kolofata, Cameroon, March 16, 2016. After watching its influence spread during a six-year campaign that has killed around 15,000 people according to the U.S. military, Nigeria has now united with its neighbours to stamp out Boko Haram. An 8,700-strong regional force of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria is seeking to finish the job. Outside Nigeria, Cameroon has been hardest hit by Boko Haram, which now operates out of bases in the Mandara Mountains, Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad. REUTERS/Joe Penney SEARCH "KOLOFATA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A boy rides a bicycle past two younger boys at the Minawao camp for Nigerian refugees in Minawao, Cameroon, March 15, 2016. The camp has a population of over 56,600 people, according to camp officials. After watching its influence spread during a six-year campaign that has killed around 15,000 people according to the U.S. military, Nigeria has now united with its neighbours to stamp out Boko Haram. An 8,700-strong regional force of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria is seeking to finish the job. Outside Nigeria, Cameroon has been hardest hit by Boko Haram, which now operates out of bases in the Mandara Mountains, Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad. REUTERS/Joe Penney SEARCH "KOLOFATA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Women watch Cameroonian military patrol in Kerawa, Cameroon, March 16, 2016. Kerawa is on the border with Nigeria and is subject to frequent Boko Haram attacks. After watching its influence spread during a six-year campaign that has killed around 15,000 people according to the U.S. military, Nigeria has now united with its neighbours to stamp out Boko Haram. An 8,700-strong regional force of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria is seeking to finish the job. Outside Nigeria, Cameroon has been hardest hit by Boko Haram, which now operates out of bases in the Mandara Mountains, Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad. REUTERS/Joe Penney SEARCH "KOLOFATA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Cameroonian soldiers from the Rapid Intervention Brigade ride in a military pickup truck at their base in Achigachia, Cameroon, March 16, 2016. The brigade is known by its French acronym BIR. After watching its influence spread during a six-year campaign that has killed around 15,000 people according to the U.S. military, Nigeria has now united with its neighbours to stamp out Boko Haram. An 8,700-strong regional force of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria is seeking to finish the job. Outside Nigeria, Cameroon has been hardest hit by Boko Haram, which now operates out of bases in the Mandara Mountains, Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad. REUTERS/Joe Penney SEARCH "KOLOFATA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Women sell food in Kerawa, Cameroon, March 16, 2016. Kerawa is on the border with Nigeria and is subject to frequent Boko Haram attacks. After watching its influence spread during a six-year campaign that has killed around 15,000 people according to the U.S. military, Nigeria has now united with its neighbours to stamp out Boko Haram. An 8,700-strong regional force of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria is seeking to finish the job. Outside Nigeria, Cameroon has been hardest hit by Boko Haram, which now operates out of bases in the Mandara Mountains, Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad. REUTERS/Joe Penney SEARCH "KOLOFATA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A farmer works outside Maroua, Cameroon, March 16, 2016. After watching its influence spread during a six-year campaign that has killed around 15,000 people according to the U.S. military, Nigeria has now united with its neighbours to stamp out Boko Haram. An 8,700-strong regional force of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria is seeking to finish the job. Outside Nigeria, Cameroon has been hardest hit by Boko Haram, which now operates out of bases in the Mandara Mountains, Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad. REUTERS/Joe Penney SEARCH "KOLOFATA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Girls walk on a road in Maroua, Cameroon, March 17, 2016. After watching its influence spread during a six-year campaign that has killed around 15,000 people according to the U.S. military, Nigeria has now united with its neighbours to stamp out Boko Haram. An 8,700-strong regional force of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria is seeking to finish the job. Outside Nigeria, Cameroon has been hardest hit by Boko Haram, which now operates out of bases in the Mandara Mountains, Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad. REUTERS/Joe Penney SEARCH "KOLOFATA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
People wash clothes in a dry riverbed in Maroua, Cameroon, March 17, 2016. After watching its influence spread during a six-year campaign that has killed around 15,000 people according to the U.S. military, Nigeria has now united with its neighbours to stamp out Boko Haram. An 8,700-strong regional force of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria is seeking to finish the job. Outside Nigeria, Cameroon has been hardest hit by Boko Haram, which now operates out of bases in the Mandara Mountains, Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad. REUTERS/Joe Penney SEARCH "KOLOFATA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Sheep and herders are seen outside Kolofata, Cameroon, March 16, 2016. After watching its influence spread during a six-year campaign that has killed around 15,000 people according to the U.S. military, Nigeria has now united with its neighbours to stamp out Boko Haram. An 8,700-strong regional force of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria is seeking to finish the job. Outside Nigeria, Cameroon has been hardest hit by Boko Haram, which now operates out of bases in the Mandara Mountains, Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad. REUTERS/Joe Penney SEARCH "KOLOFATA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Buildings are seen outside Kolofata, Cameroon, March 16, 2016. After watching its influence spread during a six-year campaign that has killed around 15,000 people according to the U.S. military, Nigeria has now united with its neighbours to stamp out Boko Haram. An 8,700-strong regional force of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria is seeking to finish the job. Outside Nigeria, Cameroon has been hardest hit by Boko Haram, which now operates out of bases in the Mandara Mountains, Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad. REUTERS/Joe Penney SEARCH "KOLOFATA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Boys hold bows and arrows in Kerawa, Cameroon, March 16, 2016. Kerawa is on the border with Nigeria and is subject to frequent Boko Haram attacks. After watching its influence spread during a six-year campaign that has killed around 15,000 people according to the U.S. military, Nigeria has now united with its neighbours to stamp out Boko Haram. An 8,700-strong regional force of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria is seeking to finish the job. Outside Nigeria, Cameroon has been hardest hit by Boko Haram, which now operates out of bases in the Mandara Mountains, Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad. REUTERS/Joe Penney SEARCH "KOLOFATA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Members of a civilian vigilante group stand guard at the border with Nigeria in Kerawa, Cameroon, March 16, 2016. Kerawa is on the border with Nigeria and is subject to frequent Boko Haram attacks. After watching its influence spread during a six-year campaign that has killed around 15,000 people according to the U.S. military, Nigeria has now united with its neighbours to stamp out Boko Haram. An 8,700-strong regional force of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria is seeking to finish the job. Outside Nigeria, Cameroon has been hardest hit by Boko Haram, which now operates out of bases in the Mandara Mountains, Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad. REUTERS/Joe Penney SEARCH "KOLOFATA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Cameroonian soldiers from the Rapid Intervention Brigade oeprate a surveillance drone at their base in Achigachia, Cameroon, March 16, 2016. After watching its influence spread during a six-year campaign that has killed around 15,000 people according to the U.S. military, Nigeria has now united with its neighbours to stamp out Boko Haram. An 8,700-strong regional force of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria is seeking to finish the job. Outside Nigeria, Cameroon has been hardest hit by Boko Haram, which now operates out of bases in the Mandara Mountains, Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad. REUTERS/Joe Penney SEARCH "KOLOFATA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Cameroonian soldiers from the Rapid Intervention Brigade stand guard amidst dust kicked up by a helicopter in Kolofata, Cameroon, March 16, 2016. The brigade is known by its French acronym BIR. After watching its influence spread during a six-year campaign that has killed around 15,000 people according to the U.S. military, Nigeria has now united with its neighbours to stamp out Boko Haram. An 8,700-strong regional force of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria is seeking to finish the job. Outside Nigeria, Cameroon has been hardest hit by Boko Haram, which now operates out of bases in the Mandara Mountains, Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad. REUTERS/Joe Penney SEARCH "KOLOFATA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A Cameroonian military helicopter takes off in Kolofata, Cameroon, March 16, 2016. After watching its influence spread during a six-year campaign that has killed around 15,000 people according to the U.S. military, Nigeria has now united with its neighbours to stamp out Boko Haram. An 8,700-strong regional force of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria is seeking to finish the job. Outside Nigeria, Cameroon has been hardest hit by Boko Haram, which now operates out of bases in the Mandara Mountains, Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad. REUTERS/Joe Penney SEARCH "KOLOFATA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A man sells tomatoes under a tree at the Minawao refugee camp in Minawao, Cameroon, March 15, 2016. The camp has a population of over 56,600 people, according to camp officials. After watching its influence spread during a six-year campaign that has killed around 15,000 people according to the U.S. military, Nigeria has now united with its neighbours to stamp out Boko Haram. An 8,700-strong regional force of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria is seeking to finish the job. Outside Nigeria, Cameroon has been hardest hit by Boko Haram, which now operates out of bases in the Mandara Mountains, Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad. REUTERS/Joe Penney SEARCH "KOLOFATA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Cameroonian soldiers from the Rapid Intervention Brigade stand guard at a field used as a helicopter landing base in Kolofata, Cameroon, March 16, 2016. The brigade is known by its French acronym BIR. After watching its influence spread during a six-year campaign that has killed around 15,000 people according to the U.S. military, Nigeria has now united with its neighbours to stamp out Boko Haram. An 8,700-strong regional force of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria is seeking to finish the job. Outside Nigeria, Cameroon has been hardest hit by Boko Haram, which now operates out of bases in the Mandara Mountains, Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad. REUTERS/Joe Penney SEARCH "KOLOFATA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A Cameroonian police officer stands next to people waiting to fill jerrycans with water at the Minawao refugee camp for Nigerians who have fled Boko Haram attacks in Minawao, Cameroon, March 15, 2016. The camp has a population of over 56,600 people, according to camp officials. After watching its influence spread during a six-year campaign that has killed around 15,000 people according to the U.S. military, Nigeria has now united with its neighbours to stamp out Boko Haram. An 8,700-strong regional force of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria is seeking to finish the job. Outside Nigeria, Cameroon has been hardest hit by Boko Haram, which now operates out of bases in the Mandara Mountains, Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad. REUTERS/Joe Penney SEARCH "KOLOFATA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A woman watches a Cameroonian soldier from the Rapid Intervention Brigade on patrol in Kolofata, Cameroon, March 16, 2016. The brigade is known by its French acronym BIR. After watching its influence spread during a six-year campaign that has killed around 15,000 people according to the U.S. military, Nigeria has now united with its neighbours to stamp out Boko Haram. An 8,700-strong regional force of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria is seeking to finish the job. Outside Nigeria, Cameroon has been hardest hit by Boko Haram, which now operates out of bases in the Mandara Mountains, Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad. REUTERS/Joe Penney SEARCH "KOLOFATA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
A member of a civilian vigilante group holds a hunting rifle while a woman pumps water into jerrycans in Kerawa, Cameroon, March 16, 2016. Kerawa is on the border with Nigeria and is subject to frequent Boko Haram attacks. After watching its influence spread during a six-year campaign that has killed around 15,000 people according to the U.S. military, Nigeria has now united with its neighbours to stamp out Boko Haram. An 8,700-strong regional force of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria is seeking to finish the job. Outside Nigeria, Cameroon has been hardest hit by Boko Haram, which now operates out of bases in the Mandara Mountains, Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad. REUTERS/Joe Penney SEARCH "KOLOFATA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Cameroonian soldiers from the Rapid Intervention Brigade tell a young boy to stay back while on patrol in Kerawa, Cameroon, March 16, 2016. The brigade is known by its French acronym BIR. After watching its influence spread during a six-year campaign that has killed around 15,000 people according to the U.S. military, Nigeria has now united with its neighbours to stamp out Boko Haram. An 8,700-strong regional force of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria is seeking to finish the job. Outside Nigeria, Cameroon has been hardest hit by Boko Haram, which now operates out of bases in the Mandara Mountains, Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad. REUTERS/Joe Penney SEARCH "KOLOFATA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A sheep herder tends to his flock outside Maroua, Cameroon, March 16, 2016. After watching its influence spread during a six-year campaign that has killed around 15,000 people according to the U.S. military, Nigeria has now united with its neighbours to stamp out Boko Haram. An 8,700-strong regional force of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria is seeking to finish the job. Outside Nigeria, Cameroon has been hardest hit by Boko Haram, which now operates out of bases in the Mandara Mountains, Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad. REUTERS/Joe Penney SEARCH "KOLOFATA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Residents gather on market day in Kerawa, Cameroon, March 16, 2016. Kerawa is on the border with Nigeria and is subject to frequent Boko Haram attacks. After watching its influence spread during a six-year campaign that has killed around 15,000 people according to the U.S. military, Nigeria has now united with its neighbours to stamp out Boko Haram. An 8,700-strong regional force of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria is seeking to finish the job. Outside Nigeria, Cameroon has been hardest hit by Boko Haram, which now operates out of bases in the Mandara Mountains, Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad. REUTERS/Joe Penney SEARCH "KOLOFATA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
People walk on a dirt road outside Maroua, Cameroon, March 16, 2016. After watching its influence spread during a six-year campaign that has killed around 15,000 people according to the U.S. military, Nigeria has now united with its neighbours to stamp out Boko Haram. An 8,700-strong regional force of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria is seeking to finish the job. Outside Nigeria, Cameroon has been hardest hit by Boko Haram, which now operates out of bases in the Mandara Mountains, Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad. REUTERS/Joe Penney SEARCH "KOLOFATA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
Buildings are seen from a helicopter outside Kolofata, Cameroon, March 16, 2016. After watching its influence spread during a six-year campaign that has killed around 15,000 people according to the U.S. military, Nigeria has now united with its neighbours to stamp out Boko Haram. An 8,700-strong regional force of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria is seeking to finish the job. Outside Nigeria, Cameroon has been hardest hit by Boko Haram, which now operates out of bases in the Mandara Mountains, Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad. REUTERS/Joe Penney SEARCH "KOLOFATA" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES
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Asked if it was safe to assume that tens of thousands of people were dying, Lanzer said: "It's not what we're assuming, it's what the IPC states. And I back that number.

"I can tell you from my first trip outside (the regional capital) Maiduguri, I had never gone to places that had adults who were so depleted of energy that they could barely walk."

One aid agency reported back from the Nigerian town of Bama that its staff had counted the graves of about 430 children who had died of hunger in the past few weeks, Lanzer said.

With millions more short of food in northern Nigerian and regions of the adjoining countries, the situation could get much worse, and could turn into the "biggest crisis facing any of us anywhere", he said.

"We're now talking about 568,000 across the Lake Chad basin who are severely malnourished, 400,000 of them are in the northeast of Nigeria. We know that over the next 12 months, 75,000, maybe as many as 80,000, children will die in the northeast of Nigeria, unless we can reach them with specialized therapeutic food," Lanzer said.

Across the Lake Chad region, more than 6 million people are described as "severely food insecure", including 4.5 million in Nigeria, he said.

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