UN agency warns four million Nigerians on brink of crisis-level food insecurity

Four million people in Nigeria are at eminent risk of crisis-level food insecurity, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.

Nigeria’s crisis, predominantly in the northern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, has been created by inflation of food prices, high transport costs, seasonality of agricultural production, lack of storage facilities, inadequate irrigation for farming, and militants increasingly attacking transport routes. 

Drought and desertification in the North have pushed Muslim and Fulani herders to migrate into southern areas causing population growth and conflict. Disputes between farmers and herders are commonly disrupting food production. And the cost of food is at its highest since 2008, continuing to project upward since 2021. 

Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, closed land borders with neighboring countries in August 2019 to prevent food smuggling and encourage local production. September 2020, the government banned official spending for imports, including food. The government partially reopened the borders in December 2020, but trade is still slow.

Moses Ojo, Chief Economist at PanAfrican Capital Holdings in Lagos, pointed to low-wage earners spending more than 50% of their income on food due to systemic issues throughout the supply chain and not only an inflation problem.

The FAO 2021 humanitarian appeal published in November outlined a plan to reach more than 48.9 million people, of the 135 million people in need globally, by boosting local food production and nutrition.

The Director of FAO’s Emergencies and Resilience Division, Dominique Burgeon warns, “Millions are living on the precipice one stress or shock away from rapid deterioration. With or without famine declarations, we need to act now.”

Director of FAO's Emergencies and Resilience Division, Dominique Burgeon 
Director of FAO’s Emergencies and Resilience Division, Dominique Burgeon

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is seeking $1.1 billion to fight global food insecurity in the world’s most food-insecure countries. A push to stop the hunger crisis from soaring since 2000, exceeding the 2019 statistics and exacerbated by the Coronavirus pandemic, supply chain disruptions, transportation shortages, intensifying conflict, and climate change. 

The Director of FAO’s Emergencies and Resilience Division, Dominique Burgeon, saying, “The shocks of the past year will reverberate long into 2021 and beyond, and we need to urgently scale-up action to avert a worst-case scenario.”

Nigeria’s Vice President Yemi Osinbajo addressed a UN Food Systems Summit in February of 2021 in Abuja. Warning that Nigeria’s population was growing much faster than the economy, limiting resilient and sustainable food systems, he expressed the severity of the situation. 

Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo 
Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo

At an estimated 219 million, Nigeria’s population will reach more than 400 million by 2050, making it the third-largest country in the world. And with more than half of its population living in urban areas with inadequate infrastructure, women bearing an average of five children in their lifetime, civil unrest spreads. 

Nevertheless, partner countries and global organizations are currently and will continue giving financial assistance to Nigeria. It’s up to the Nigerian government to allocate the funds appropriately and strategically to improve this situation. 

The U.S., Nigeria’s largest donor, is providing nearly $104 million in additional humanitarian assistance to respond to the ongoing crisis, having provided almost $505 million in Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021. 

Kristi Pelzel is a Senior White House correspondent for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Kristi also covers the US Department of State and the United Nations. She holds a master's degree from Georgetown University.

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