FAO: Nigeria, Congo, Others Hotspots for Acute Hunger

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Festus Akanbi

The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) yesterday warned that Nigeria and few other African countries may be hit by acute food shortage amidst the rising threats to farming activities in the affected countries.

A report by Bloomberg, which raised the alarm, disclosed that Nigerian farmers were buffeted by organised crimes, flooding, drought and COVID-19 pandemic. It listed other vulnerable African countries to include the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burkina Faso, Somalia and the Sudan.

“In Nigeria, working the land can be a dangerous occupation because of longstanding religious and ethnic tensions and, more recently, organised crime. That’s as farmers already had to contend with flooding or drought. It’s all now hitting agriculture just when the country needs it most. The pandemic has triggered a surge in food prices in a nation that imports more than a tenth of its food supply.

“With 200 million people, Nigeria is the most populous country in the world’s most food-insecure continent. Producing food at home matters more as importers struggle to access dollars to pay for shipments from overseas after an oil price crash sapped foreign-currency reserves, “ the report said.

The Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mustapha Baba Shehuri, recently disclosed that Nigeria loaned 5,000MT of assorted grains from ECOWAS Stock, which was agreed to be paid back on grain for grain basis. He explained that “Modalities had been put in place to replace the ECOWAS Stock before the advent of COVID-19 pandemic. That notwithstanding, I can assure you that the stock will be replaced in due course.”

According to the Bloomberg report, the world is forecast for a sharp rise in food insecurity because of COVID-19’s impact. It said as many as 132 million more people globally may fall into the grip of hunger this year, including in many places that used to have relative stability

It disclosed that the Democratic Republic of Congo was emerging as the country with the world’s largest food crisis in terms of absolute numbers. In addition to the Congo, the worst deteriorations in acute hunger in recent months have taken place in Burkina Faso — which had witnessed a nearly 300 per cent uptick in the overall number of people experiencing acute hunger since the start of 2020 — as well as Nigeria, Somalia and the Sudan, the FAO said.

In an appeal to the United Nations Security Council, FAO Director-General, QU Dongyu, said that in Northern Nigeria, between June and August 2020, the number of people in crisis or facing emergency levels of acute food insecurity increased by 73 per cent compared to the 2019 peak figure and reached almost 8.7 million.

He told the council that “Tragically, there are many more situations where conflict and instability, now also exacerbated by COVID-19, are drivers for more serious hunger and acute food insecurity. This is particularly visible in areas where conflict and other factors such as economic turbulence, and extreme weather are already driving people into poverty and hunger.”

He listed Burkina Faso, South Sudan and Yemen as other areas deserving of the UN attention to save lives and livelihoods.

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