Celebrating World Food Day Amid Rising Global Hunger

L-R: Minister of State for Agriculture, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri; FAO Country Rep, Mr. Sanusie Koroma; and WFP Nigeria Head of Communications, Ms. Inger Marie Vennize at the WFD Exhibition in Abuja recently

Kelechi Onyemaobi

The United Nations World Food Day, celebrated every year on October 16, is a day of action dedicated to tackling global hunger.

Nigeria joined the rest of the world in celebrating the UN World Food Day on October 16, 2018 – amid growing concerns of rising global hunger, and mounting evidence of the links between conflict, poverty and food insecurity.

The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) Country Office in Nigeria joined hands to mark the World Food Day with a series of activities spread through one full week.

The events included a 5km road-walk; a symposium on Zero Hunger; a book / photo exhibition, and on the actual day itself an agricultural fair. The road-walk, on October 9, turned out to be a truly fun-filled event, and attracted scores of farmers displaying their agricultural produce; directors and staff members of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development; WFP and FAO staff members; journalists and hundreds of men and women – some with their children.

The road-walk was an opportunity to salute the courage of Nigerian farmers who produce most of the food for a population of nearly 200 million people.

At a symposium on October 12 titled: “Our Actions are Our Future: A Zero Hunger World by 2030 is Possible,” the Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, reaffirmed the commitment of the Government of Nigeria to achieving Zero Hunger within the next few years. “In the next 12 years, Nigeria will join the league of nations who would be able to feed the world,” Senator Lokpobiri said.

For the World Food Programme Country Office in Nigeria, the World Food Day is a renewed commitment to fighting hunger. Within two years of establishing its presence in Nigeria as a full-fledged Country Office, the World Food Programme has shown its commitment to working with the government and people of Nigeria in line with its mission of “Saving Lives, Changing Lives”.

Since the summer of 2016, WFP has been providing life-saving assistance to families affected by the conflict in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states. An average of 1.1 million people have relied on WFP food trucks to arrive in their area, or on cash distributions enabling them to purchase basic foods. Tens of thousands of pregnant or breastfeeding women as well as children under the age of five have received preventive nutritious foods as a supplement to avoid malnutrition. Families in the northeast appreciate the efforts of the WFP. As Mr Kalli Ali, a displaced person in Borno State, summed it up recently, “Yes, I know WFP; they are the people giving us food and money”.

In 2018, while continuing to meet emergency needs, the WFP Country Office is increasing its focus on resilience, self-reliance, protection, and the empowerment of women and girls.

“Relying on food aid for survival is not a long-term solution for anyone. We all need to work together to find ways for people to support themselves”, said Mrs. Myrta Kaulard, WFP Country Director for Nigeria.

In the strategic plans for the next four years, WFP will therefore re-focus its efforts. WFP has started a transition journey addressing both humanitarian and development needs. This means working hand in hand with relevant government entities and other partners, supporting the overall efforts of Nigeria to produce more and higher quality food. The goal is to meet food needs of the entire and rapidly growing population in a way that equally benefits men and women. WFP strategies are in full alignment with the consensus on the humanitarian-development-peace nexus and the Government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.

Although the number of people estimated to be facing food insecurity in the three most conflict-affected states in the northeast of Nigeria has reduced considerably in the last one year, the food security and nutrition situation remain very fragile. A full return to peace in the northeast will, no doubt, go a long way in ameliorating the situation.

The Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme, David Beasley said in his 2018 World Food Day address, “Affordable food and peaceful societies go hand in hand. But millions of our brothers and sisters enjoy neither; the presence of near-constant conflict makes it almost impossible to cook the simplest meal. We must do everything in our power to reduce conflict and rebuild economies, so markets can thrive and communities can prosper.”

Onyemaobi is the National Communications Officer of the UN World Food Programme in Nigeria