WFP’s $182m aid to fight extreme hunger in Nigeria

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A report last week by the World Food Programme (WFP) of the United Nations that more than $182 million is needed to sustain lifesaving aid to Nigeria over the next six months deserves utmost concern and topmost priority of the global humanitarian community, including Nigeria’s development partners.

“We are concerned by conflict-affected communities in North-east Nigeria who already face extreme hunger and who are especially vulnerable. They are on life-support and need assistance to survive,” said WFP Senior Spokesperson, Elisabeth Byrs, in reference to Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states.

Help and funding are needed urgently for millions of people in Nigeria who have been hit severely by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, including conflict-hit communities “on life-support” in the North-east, UN humanitarians said last week. The three so-called BAY states have been plagued by a decade-long insurgency that has spilled over into the Lake Chad region.

It remains among the most severe humanitarian crises in the world, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, with some 7.9 million, mainly women and children, in need of urgent assistance today.

“That’s why WFP is distributing now two months’ worth of food and nutrition assistance in IDP camps and among vulnerable communities to ensure that people have enough food while they are on full or partial lockdown”, Ms Byrs said, outlining plans to help a total of 1.8 million people there.

Needs are great nationally too, the UN agency has warned, linked to a steep drop in international oil prices – Nigeria’s major export commodity – since the outbreak of the virus. To date, latest World Health Organisation, WHO, data indicates that the country has seen more than 12,800 confirmed cases of new coronavirus and over 360 deaths linked to the respiratory disease.

More than 3.8 million people, mainly working in the informal sector, face losing their jobs amid rising hardship, Ms. Byrs said, and this could rise to 13 million if movement restrictions continue for a longer period. “This would add to the almost 20 million (23 per cent of the labour force) already out of work.

“In a country where about 90 million people, 46 per cent of the population, live on less than $2 a day, this is a real concern”, Ms. Byrs continued. “The urban poor who depend on a daily wage to feed themselves and their families have been severely hit by movement restrictions to contain the spread of the virus.”

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) had, last year, for the first time, included Nigeria among countries that need external food assistance to survive. The FAO had released a list of countries across the world that are in need of external food assistance.

In the FAO’s quarterly report titled Crop Prospects and Food Situation, the organisation said the need for the food assistance is as a result of high levels of food insecurity and adverse weather conditions. “About half of the 41 countries needing external assistance for food are home to civil unrest or full-fledged conflict, while others face severe resource strains due to large influxes of refugees from neighbouring countries experiencing unrest,” the report read.

Of the 41 countries listed, 31 are in Africa. The countries: Afghanistan; Bangladesh; Burkina Faso; Burundi; Cabo Verde; Cameroon Central African Republic; Chad; Congo; Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; Democratic Republic of Congo; Djibouti; Eritrea; Eswatini and Ethiopia. Others include Guinea, Haiti, Iraq, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syrian, Arab Republic, Uganda, Venezuela,Yemen and Zimbabwe.

FAO stated that the main reasons Nigeria and other countries are in need of food assistance are conflict and civil insecurity. “Conflict and civil insecurity are also primary drivers of food insecurity in Burundi, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen and parts of Myanmar and Nigeria. Ongoing conflicts also continue to affect farming activities, limiting farmers’ access to land and causing a shortage of inputs. 

The conflicts and civil insecurity are affecting North-east Nigeria, the Lake Chad Basin, the Lac and Tibesti regions of Chad, northern and central Mali. In North-east and North-west Nigeria, conflict incidents and violence by armed groups in recent months have been very high and have strongly hindered agro-pastoral activities,” the report added.

It is instructive that the disclosure by the WFP is coming on the heels of the plan by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to fund 1.6 million farmers in the 2020 wet season across the country. CBN Director, Development Finance Department, Mr Yila Yusuf, said at the flag-off of Farm Inputs Distribution for cotton farmers for 2020 planting season last week in Kwali, Abuja, that the scheme is under the bank’s 10 focal commodities which would cut across the value chains.

Blueprint commends the efforts of the global humanitarian community and the Nigerian government (through the CBN) to mitigate the food crisis in the country which has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in the lockdown of global economies. We are optimistic that when the $182 million aid required by the WFP and the CBN’s intervention come to fruition, Nigeria’s food crisis will be curbed to a large extent.

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