Soldiers looks at burnt house on February 4, 2016 during a visit to the village of Dalori village, some 12 kilometres from Borno state capital Maiduguri, northeastern Nigeria, after an attack by Boko Haram insurgents on the village left at least 85 people dead on January 30, 2016. At least 85 people died when Boko Haram insurgents stormed and torched a village on January 30 near the restive northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri, a state commissioner said on February 1, 2016. Boko Haram, which seeks a hardline Islamic state in northern Nigeria, has killed some 17,000 people and forced more than 2.6 million others to flee their homes since 2009. / AFP / STRINGER (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)
Soldiers looks at burnt house on February 4, 2016 during a visit to the village of Dalori village, some 12 kilometres from Borno state capital Maiduguri, northeastern Nigeria, after an attack by Boko Haram insurgents on the village left at least 85 people dead on January 30, 2016. At least 85 people died when Boko Haram insurgents stormed and torched a village on January 30 near the restive northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri, a state commissioner said on February 1, 2016. Boko Haram, which seeks a hardline Islamic state in northern Nigeria, has killed some 17,000 people and forced more than 2.6 million others to flee their homes since 2009. / AFP / STRINGER (Photo credit should read STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

Violence is hampering the return of humanitarian workers to northeast Nigeria where hundreds of thousands of displaced people need help, a UN spokesman said on Thursday.

“According to our colleagues at OCHA (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), some 260 aid workers have been withdrawn from areas impacted by the conflict since last November, hampering the delivery of humanitarian assistance to hundreds of thousands of needy people,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN secretary-general.

“While some aid workers have started to return, insecurity is preventing a return to normal humanitarian activities,” he told reporters at a regular briefing.

The spokesman said Edward Kallon, the UN agency’s coordinator in Nigeria, expressed “grave concern following the upsurge in violence in the country’s northeast that has led to massive displacement.

In a statement issued in Nigeria on Wednesday, Kallon described the situation as “a humanitarian tragedy”.

“It is heart-wrenching to see so many of these people living in congested camps, or sleeping outside with no shelter,” Kallon said.

“Civilians continue to bear the brunt of the conflict and the United Nations is extremely concerned.”

OCHA said the withdrawal of 260 aid workers was the largest pullout since the international humanitarian response scaled up in 2016.

From 10 years of conflict, more than 7 million people are in dire need of help, OCHA said. The violence stems from “non-state armed groups” who stage assaults and clash with the Nigerian military.

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