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Nigeria, UN seek N466bn for response to urgent food and nutrition crisis

With a deteriorating food security and nutrition crisis in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (BAY) states this lean season, (May to September), the Government of Nigeria, national and international partners today launched an appeal seeking US$306 million, approximately NGN466.038 billion, to fast-track food assistance, nutrition supplies and services, clean water, healthcare, and protection support to people in severe need during the period.

Every year, countries in the Sahel face a difficult “lean season” period between planting and harvesting. During this time, food supplies are low, pasture for livestock is scarce, and households rely on various coping strategies to meet their food needs.

In the BAY states, some 4.8 million people are estimated to be facing severe food insecurity, the highest levels in seven years, according to the Government-led Cadre Harmonisé analysis released in March this year.

Children, pregnant and lactating women, older persons, and people living with disabilities are among those who are most vulnerable. The appeal, the lean season food security and nutrition crisis multisector plan, is targeting 2.8 million of these people for urgent interventions.

This food and nutrition crisis, which has been compounded by soaring food prices, is primarily due to continued conflict and insecurity in the BAY states, alongside climate change impacts.

It threatens to become catastrophic without immediate and coordinated intervention. The prices of staple foods like beans and maize have increased by 300 to 400 per cent over the past year following the removal of the fuel subsidy and the depreciation of the naira. Inflation is outpacing the ability of families to cope, making essential food items unaffordable.

Malnutrition rates are of great concern. Approximately 700,000 children under five are projected to be acutely malnourished over the next six months, including 230,000 who are expected to be severely acutely malnourished and at risk of death if they do not receive timely treatment and nutrition support.

Speaking at the launch of the plan, the Director General of the National Emergency Management Agency, Zubaida Umar said: “The mobilization of funding and resources to address this lean season food security and nutrition crisis envisaged in the north-eastern part of the country is a step in the right direction in complementing the Federal Government’s efforts to prevent the deaths of people as a result of malnutrition-related complications, adoption of negative coping mechanisms and other health related issues among others.”

Announcing the release of $11 million from the Nigeria Humanitarian Fund to jumpstart the emergency response, United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Mohamed Malick Fall said: “I am confident that we have the capacity to address these increased needs in support of Government efforts, what we need now are resources. Joining hands together, pooling resources, to save lives and stop the suffering”.

The Acting Representative of UNICEF Nigeria, Dr Rownak Khan stated: “UNICEF is deeply concerned about the escalating food security and nutrition crisis in the BAY states. The alarming rise in severe acute malnutrition among children underscores the urgent need for immediate action. This year alone, we have seen around 120,000 admissions for the treatment of severe acute malnutrition with complications, far exceeding our estimated target of 90,000. We must ensure that lifesaving nutrition commodities reach every child in need. This is not just a call to action; it is a race against time to save lives and protect the future of millions of vulnerable children.”

While highlighting that immediate actions need to be taken for longer term results, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Representative ad interim in Nigeria, Dominique Koffy Kouacou, said: “Given the urgent situation, urgent interventions are required to support short-, medium- and long-term needs of vulnerable populations. The focus therefore needs to be on building resilience supported by emergency agriculture, including seeds, fertilizer, livestock and technical training, and developing agribusiness for better production and better nutrition”.

The World Food Programme (WFP) Country Director, David Stevenson, said: “We need to get out of conflict into solutions, and the solution is peace and production. Meanwhile, there remains a conflict in the north-east that requires our collective urgent assistance. We are prioritizing access to nutritious foods by providing cash-based transfers, specialized nutritious foods, and by supporting local food solutions.”

With the lean season coinciding with the rainy season, there is a need for collective efforts to improve access to drinking water, sanitation facilities, and hygiene to combat the spread of infectious diseases, particularly among the more than 2 million internally displaced persons in camps and overcrowded settlements in the BAY states.

This is crucial to help break the vicious cycle of disease and malnutrition that threatens the lives of young children and other vulnerable people.

Alongside efforts to protect lives, there is also a need to strengthen people’s resilience by supporting agricultural livelihoods which sustain over 80 per cent of the vulnerable people across the BAY states. Limited funding for agricultural livelihoods continues to perpetuate cyclical food insecurity.

This is the fourth time that the UN and humanitarian partners are launching an operational plan for the BAY states pointing to the need to address the root causes of hunger and malnutrition.

This includes but is not limited to advancing peace-building efforts, improving access to essential health care services, supporting food production systems, enhancing social protection services, and mitigating climate change shocks.

The lean season food security and nutrition crisis multisector plan is part of the 2024 UN-coordinated Humanitarian Response Plan for Nigeria.

Sources:

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