Nigerian woman producing textiles while seated at sewing machines.

Since 2012, Mercy Corps has been working in the most marginalized regions of Nigeria to deliver urgent, lifesaving assistance and build the resilience of communities. In 2019, our work impacted the lives of more than 984,000 people across the country.


The context

Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa, with over 60 percent of its growing population under the age of 25 and a cultural and economic influence that is felt across the continent. Yet insecurity, corruption and weak economic growth continue to undermine the country’s development.

In Northeast Nigeria, civilians continue to bear the brunt of a conflict between the military and armed opposition groups. Now in its eleventh year, the resulting humanitarian crisis has displaced millions of people, destroyed infrastructure and collapsed basic services. Some 10.6 million people are in need of urgent lifesaving assistance, including food, health care and water, and 1.9 million people are currently internally displaced — most of them women and children.

In Nigeria’s Middle Belt region, a decades-old conflict between farmers and herders over competition for natural resources has intensified. Thousands of people have been killed in inter-communal conflicts that have taken on religious and ethnic overtones, and hundreds of thousands have been displaced. Outbreaks of violence continue to pose security threats in Nigeria’s oil-producing South, and levels of crime, banditry and kidnappings remain high nationwide.

At the same time, Nigeria’s oil-dependent economy is not keeping pace with rapid population growth, and unemployment and poverty rates are on the rise. Almost half of Nigeria’s population of 180 million people live below the international poverty line.

This statistic skyrockets to over 75 percent in the agriculturally-dependent Northeast, where mass displacement and destruction of farmland has devastated opportunities to earn an income. The situation is particularly dire for women and young people, who often lack the skills or the networks to forge a new life.

Girls in Nigeria are at a particular disadvantage. More than 40 percent are not enrolled in primary education. At secondary level, 60 percent of girls are absent from school, and in Borno State — the epicenter of the crisis — this number jumps to over 70 percent. Two of every five girls in Nigeria will be married by the age of 15, and become mothers shortly afterwards.

Our impact

Since 2012, we have partnered with communities to help them recover and rebuild while addressing root causes of conflict, insecurity and inequality. Every month, our work impacts the lives of over 600,000 people across Nigeria. Here are our primary focus areas:

As Nigeria faces the COVID‑19 pandemic, we are adapting our programs so that we can still safely support the communities we serve, while informing and educating them on COVID‑19 through popular local radio stations.

Meeting urgent needs

Nigerian boy transporting a bucket on his head.
Abdullahi, aged 15, spent a great deal of time walking long distances to collect water for his family, forcing him to be late for school and often face punishment. With a new water point built by Mercy Corps close to his house, Abdullahi no longer needs to go far distances for water, he arrives at school on time and can concentrate on what matters most — his education.

We strive to meet the most urgent needs of disaster-affected communities as rapidly as possible. In the face of the ongoing crisis in the Northeast, we save lives by providing food, water, sanitation facilities, emergency shelter and basic household items to the most vulnerable populations. Every month, we help ensure that more than 100,000 people have enough food to eat.

We are also building communities' capacities to manage and prevent the many shocks and stresses arising from the changing emergency. We help rebuild local communities by providing shelters to families and resources to help them start small businesses of all forms, such as farming, poultry or carpentry. We also provide safe spaces where individuals can gather to share their experiences, learn life skills, and receive the support they need to cope with the atrocities they have faced.

Addressing root causes of conflict

Nigerian pastoral community members meet in a hut.
Pastoralists and farmers in the Zongo community in Benue State hold a peace committee meeting. Mercy Corps helped to establish this community-led structure to foster peace between these groups.

We help community members (especially women and youth), civil society, traditional and religious leaders, and government authorities develop the skills and relationships they need to identify and address the underlying drivers of conflict and peacefully manage conflicting interests or emerging tensions.

We do this by leveraging our experience in building community’s recognition and trust to foster an environment for peace. We lead in policy and advocacy strategic engagement, and promote good governance and inclusive economic growth while meeting urgent humanitarian needs in the Middle Belt, Northeast Nigeria, and other areas experiencing conflict.

By providing opportunities for local leaders to build conflict resolution skills and collaborate to solve common challenges, we have helped communities in the Middle Belt resolve over 1,000 disputes since 2016.

Supporting entrepreneurship and market development

Woman holding goat amidst flock.
Caption: As a widow, Jummai struggled to provide for her seven children with farming, a situation that only got worse when Boko Haram attacks erupted in her community. Emergency food helped them survive, and a livelihood grant and savings group have empowered her to build a new livelihood and give her children a better future.

Nigeria is one of the most entrepreneurial countries on the continent, but many individuals struggle to access the goods and services needed to build productive livelihoods.

We connect Nigeria’s most vulnerable groups with the networks, opportunities and tools they need to sustain their families and communities. Our work helps local markets grow and develop — even in the face of conflict and crisis.

With a special focus on marginalized populations, we make sure that women and youth are equitably empowered to participate in these markets. Our safe spaces provide women and young people with training on life skills, financial literacy and vocational skills so that they may either launch their own businesses or enter gainful employment.

Nigerian man seated at a table smiling at the camera
Man, smiling, sitting on shelf in his store.
Adamu struggled to care for his large family after being displaced by Boko Haram. A livelihood grant from Mercy Corps has enabled him to build a business and have hope for the future.

Empowering youth

A person stands near a tree with their arms crossed.
Victor, 20, is set to be the first person to attend university in his family. He feels well prepared after being equipped with life skills, financial skills and basic literacy and numeracy skills through Mercy Corps’ educational program for out-of-school youth.

We foster young people’s resilience by facilitating greater education, protection, security and livelihood opportunities. We work with youth, particularly those who are not enrolled in formal education, to co-design tools and resources tailored to their needs, interests and location. We engage young people in activities that enhance their influence on government decision making, and connect them with training to build their marketable and technical skills and prepare them to enter the workforce.

We are especially focused on providing support to young women and girls. We have created safe spaces for tens of thousands of adolescent girls across the country. We train local women to use these spaces to educate in-school and out-of-school girls in their communities, so that they have the skills they need to earn a living of their own and gain access to financial services. We also create career guidance and share information about health, women’s hygiene and the transition from childhood to adulthood.

Strengthening accountability and governance

A farmer speaks to a large group of people.
Veronica, a community leader and mentor, speaks about triggers of conflict. She is a member of a peace committee established with support from Mercy Corps.

We focus on empowering communities, especially women and youth, to be leaders and more effectively engage with their government.

By strengthening the ties between communities and government, we help to promote more responsive and accountable governance systems — governments that adopt policies and approaches that work to reduce conflict, strengthen markets, build financial inclusion, and respond to the crisis in the Northeast and other related issues across the country.

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