The incessant warnings about the possibility of Nigeria facing famine in the nearest future may have been taken with a pinch of salt by both citizens and those in position of authority. The latest report is coming from the Famine Early Warning System Network, FEWS NET, an agency supported by the United States Agency for International Development, USAID, who said due to persistent conflict, severe drought and economic instability, Nigeria and three other countries face a credible risk of famine in 2017. According to the report, the Boko Haram crisis continues to contribute to large scale population displacement, limit market activity, and restrict normal livelihoods. The agency disclosed further that the combined magnitude, severity, and geographic scope of anticipated emergency food assistance needs during 2017 is unprecedented in recent decades, adding that an estimate of 70 million people across 45 countries will require emergency food assistance this year.
According to the report, “Food insecurity during 2017 will be driven primarily by three factors. Most importantly, persistent conflict is disrupting livelihoods, limiting trade, and restricting humanitarian access across many regions, including the Lake Chad Basin, the Central African Republic, Sudan, South Sudan, the Great Lakes Region, Somalia, Yemen, Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan,” the report stated.
“A second important driver is drought, especially those driven by the 2015/16 El Nino and the 2016/17 La Nina. In Southern Africa and the Horn of Africa, significantly below-average rainfall has sharply reduced crop harvests and severely limited the availability of water and pasture for livestock. In Central Asia, snowfall to date has also been below average, potentially limiting the water available for irrigated agriculture during 2017.
“Finally, economic instability, related to conflict, a decline in foreign reserves due to low global commodity prices, and associated currency depreciation have contributed to very high staple food prices in Nigeria, Malawi, Mozambique, South Sudan, and Yemen.”
The report is coming just few months after United Nations have warned that 75,000 children in Nigeria risk dying in “a few months” as hunger continue to gnaw the country’s ravaged north-east in the wake of the Boko Haram insurgency. According to UN humanitarian coordinator Peter Lundberg the crisis was unfolding at “high speed”.
As at November 2016, the assessment of United Nations show that 14million Nigerians will be in need of humanitarian assistance by 2017. This may not be mere coincidence the latest report by FEWS NET on impending famine.
Almost around the same period, the presidency also warned that Nigeria risks famine from the beginning of 2017 following a huge demand in the global market targeting the country’s surplus production. The President spokesman Garba Shehu gave the forcast in a radio interview in Kano saying, “huge demand for our grains in the global market is creating an excellent environment for the mindless export of Nigerian food across our borders and unless this is curtailed, Nigerian markets will be bereft of grains by January next year.”
The presidential spokesman said the Ministry of Agriculture advised the president to call the attention of all Nigerians to the issue which, if not addressed promptly, could lead to a shortage of grains in the country.
It can be recalled that hunger experts reported that over 2,000 people died of famine in 2016 especially in parts of North-eastern Nigeria which cannot be reached by aid agencies due to an insurgency by Islamic militant group Boko Haram. The analysts further explained that the deaths occurred in the town of Bama in Nigeria’s Borno State, the jihadists’ former stronghold.
The United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) had initially revealed that some 400,000 children were at risk from famine in the three states, 75,000 of whom could die from hunger within months. This is due to the fact that the current humanitarian response is insufficient amid extreme levels of food insecurity, and only one million people have received food aid this year analysts lamented.
There has also been continuous reported food emergency in the Lake Chad region and Nigeria which has left 11 million people in desperate need of humanitarian aid while more than 500,000 children facing severe to acute malnutrition, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel has warned.
According to Toby Lanzer, violence and mass migration have caused a humanitarian emergency that needs urgent attention. “We are now faced with 11 million people in desperate need of humanitarian aid; 7.1 million are severely food insecure. Severely food insecure, if you want, is a technical term that we get from the World Food Programme and from the Food and Agriculture Organization. What it really means is that people are living on the edge. They are surviving on, if they can, one meal a day,” he said
It is estimated that Nigeria is in need of $164 million in humanitarian funding to prevent thousands of deaths from malnutrition in its war-torn northeast, a United Nations humanitarian coordinator said. Thus there are suggestions that in order to save lives, continued efforts to resolve conflict and improve humanitarian access are essential.
Also, given the scale of anticipated need, donors and implementing partners should allocate available financial and human resources to those areas where the most severe food insecurity is likely.
In a similar vein, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations agency has said about $20 million is urgently needed by June, 2017 to support farmers for new farming season in the north east region of Nigeria.
According to FAO’s National Communication Officer, Emeka Anuforo, about 5.1 million people may face acute food insecurity in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe except there is quick intervention. The report stated that concerted efforts should be made to ensure the sum is raised otherwise, the implication might continue to rise until 2018.
According to the report, about 174,400 people have received farm inputs and irrigation equipment including livestock support during its ongoing campaigns for dry season farming.
It said: “In 2017, FAO is asking for USD 62 million under the Humanitarian Response Plan for Nigeria. Of this, USD 20 million is urgently required to reach 1.9 million people during the upcoming main planting season starting in June 2017. Missing this season will mean food insecurity and, therefore, humanitarian costs will continue rising into 2018.
“FAO’s dry season campaign is ongoing, with 174,400 people receiving vegetable seed, irrigation equipment and livestock support.
“A combination of food assistance and food production support is the only way to address the scale of hunger facing the people of northeastern Nigeria.”
Unfortunately the situation has gone beyond the northeast as the entire country continue to endure high cost of living as price of food continue to soar. The prices of staple food items in the country increased considerably between January and December 2016, with many selling at triple their prices at the end of the year with prices not showing signs of mellowing down anytime soon.
Analysis of the Novus Agro Commodity prices between January and December showed that the market prices of palm oil and maize tripled, while garri and imported rice doubled in price in the same period.
Experts have attributed the rising cost of living was mainly the result of the depreciation of the naira, while the hike in fuel and transport costs was an additional factor. The Nations statistical agency, National Bureau of Statistics also said the increased price of food in turn contributed to the high rate of inflation in the country.
Meanwhile one major factor that contributed to the general food price rise was the cost of transportation occasioned by the new pump price of petrol as introduced by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, which saw 67 per cent increase from the former N87 per litre to a maximum of N145.