Boko Haram Is Starving in a Food Crisis of its Own Making

Boko Haram’s actions are now catching up with its members. The group has been terrorizing the region for so long that Boko Haram itself is now suffering from a food crisis that it largely created.

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Mar 5 2016, 6:00pm

A loaded truck wait to carry people fleeing from Boko Haram Islamists at Mairi village outskirts of Maiduguri capital of northeast Borno State, on February 6, 2016. Photo by STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images.

The extremist group Boko Haram has been raiding villages in Nigeria, Cameroon, and neighboring countries with since 2009. It is perhaps best known as the group that abducted 276 Nigerian girls two years ago, leading to the popular #BringBackOurGirls campaign. The abductees are still missing.

Boko Haram's actions have caused unthinkable damage, and it is now catching up with its members. The group has been terrorizing the region for so long that Boko Haram itself is now suffering from a food crisis that it largely created.

The New York Times reports that Boko Haram raids are as deadly as ever, with militants shooting every man in sight as they speed into villages on a motley collection of stolen trucks. But Boko Haram is increasingly raiding villages for food rather than hostages.

"They need food. They need to eat," the governor of the Far North region of Cameroon, Midjiyawa Bakari. "They're stealing everything."

In early February, it was estimated Boko Haram had stolen more than 4,000 cattle in Cameroon. According to the Times, in one instance Boko Haram fighters stole 150 goats and other small animals from a Cameroonian town, left, and then came back to kidnap six people to help them herd the animals to Nigeria.

Tens of thousands of people are dangerously close to famine in northeast Nigeria and Cameroon, where markets have been closed for lack of food to sell. When markets have been open, shoppers have been scared off by Boko Haram's all-too-frequent suicide bombings.

The Times reports that Boko Haram fighters have had to scavenge for food in the picked-over Sambisa Forest in the midst of dry season, or raid anyplace in reach that might have food. The raids in search of food seem to have led Boko Haram deeper into Cameroon, according to the US State Department.

On Wednesday, 76 "emaciated-looking" Boko Haram members who were begging for food surrendered in northeast Nigeria, according to the Associated Press.

The Minister of Information and National Orientation of Nigeria, Lai Mohammed, told Vanguard Nigeria that an increase of suicide bombings and attacks on soft targets were signs that Boko Haram was becoming desperate.

Nigeria has suffered the most at the hands of Boko Haram, and more than 2.5 million people have had to flee their homes. A total of 4.6 million Nigerians lack food security, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

In the broader region, the six-year conflict has left more than 20,000 people dead, and late last year a report identified Boko Haram as the world's deadliest terrorist group ahead of ISIS. Boko Haram was responsible for 6,664 deaths in 2014, while ISIS killed 6,073.

A multinational military force made up of Cameroonian and Nigerian soldiers, along with additional forces from Chad and Niger, has led successful operations against Boko Haram recently, though holding onto territory has proven difficult. The American military has acted in an advisory role, helping coalition forces in their effort to shrink Boko Haram territory and cut off supply lines.

But no resolution is in sight, and while Boko Haram suffers from food shortages, so, too, do civilians.