By James Emejo
The federal government and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Monday launched a cash and food assistance initiative valued at $4 million in the three urban centers mostly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
The federal government had released 2,000 metric tons of food from its Strategic Grain Reserve valued at $1 million, while WFP was releasing $3 million to provide cash assistance to 500,000 vulnerable residents in Abuja, Kano and Lagos.
This is the first time that WFP is expanding its programme in the country to reach people in towns and cities, where millions are threatened with hunger and malnutrition due to the socio-economic fallout from the pandemic.
Working in collaboration together with the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, the distribution of cash and food began in Kano to complement the government’s ongoing efforts to cushion the impact of the pandemic.
Speaking at the ceremony, Kano State Governor, Mr. Abdullahi Ganduje said:”This partnership has enabled us to save the lives of thousands of people in Kano State during these difficult times.”
WFP Country Director and Representative, Mr. Paul Howe said:”The government of Nigeria has shown great commitment and leadership in responding to this crisis. This is exactly what we need during this time of pandemic and beyond to achieve Zero Hunger in Nigeria.”
Howe added that in the coming weeks and months, the programme will continue to work with the governments of Abuja and Lagos to support the most vulnerable families.
He said to minimise the risk of exposure to the virus, WFP had arranged for home deliveries of cash and food.
During the flag-off of the initiative Monday in Kano, food items including 25kilograms of bagged grains were delivered using the local ‘ke-ke‘ rickshaw service.
WFP will also be partnering with the Lagos State government to deliver food using boats to reach families living in the riverine community of Makoko.
The intervention also witnessed the transfer of cash through pre-paid debit cards or online bank transfers to beneficiaries in Kano. This is expected to be replicated in all the identified hotspots of COVID-19 in the country.
According to the programme, low income earners in the country had lost the most as a result of the pandemic adding that about 90 percent of the population who live in urban areas depend on a daily wage to survive.
It added that these informal workers had lost up to 80 per cent of their earnings, stressing that with a lack of income and increasing food prices, more people are finding it extremely difficult to meet their food needs.
It also pointed out that the prices of basic cereals had risen by 15 per cent in the last month alone, while the the national price of millet – Nigeria’s staple food – had doubled over the past year.
According to WFP:”To cope with hunger, families are being forced to borrow money and food, or sell their remaining assets – plunging them deeper into poverty.”
Essentially, WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian organisation, saving lives in emergencies, building prosperity and supporting a sustainable future for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.