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The hunger crisis is real. The authorities must do more to contain the consequences

No fewer than 24.8 million Nigerians in 26 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) could experience acute nutrition and food crisis between June and August except the authorities act on time to address pressing challenges. This dire prediction is from the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s Cadre Harmonise (CH), a tool used by the Food Security Sector (FSS) partners to calculate food security and nutrition situation in each location, within a certain period. With the process led by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) through the National Programme for Food Security (NPFS) in collaboration with other government agencies, it is not a report to be ignored.   

Highlighted in the report is the damage caused by the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) naira re-design policy. The withdrawal of the old notes from circulation created serious bottlenecks to households’ ability to access cash as well as food commodities. To compound the problems, “prolonged scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), commonly called petrol, and the associated hike in its pump price across the states, has led to astronomical rise in transport fares and cost of food products in Nigerian markets.” The report further noted that food consumption level had remained inadequate and below the desired threshold across most of the states, and that in some local government areas (LGAs) in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, food consumption was so critical that they had fallen under the crisis phase.    

   Indices of hunger and poverty have been pervasive over the years. Millions of Nigerians can hardly afford a good meal a day. To be sure, hunger has been a daunting challenge and has been rising for various reasons. The Boko Haram insurgency has not only led to the death of thousands of Nigerians but also led to widespread displacement of million others from their communities and farms. The hunger crisis is exacerbated by the unending conflict between farmers and herders in the food belt of the nation.  

For an economy that largely depends on imports – from petrol to fertilizers – the impact on the people has been rather tough. Today, Nigerians are reeling from soaring prices of commodities. But before the recent alarm, similar sentiment had been expressed by the United Nations organ, with prediction of a looming acute hunger in Nigeria and 20 other countries in the coming months. The gravity of the situation was better expressed in a statement by UN’s FAO Director-General, Qu Dongyu who last year noted that “The magnitude of suffering is alarming. It is incumbent upon all of us to act now and to act fast to save lives, safeguard livelihoods and prevent the worst situation.”    

Going by available statistics, between the three states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, about 4.5 million people are reportedly at risk of hunger and more than 700,000 of that number are at imminent risk of starvation. In the 2022 Global Hunger Index, Nigeria ranked 103rd out of the 121 countries, chalking up a level of hunger described as “serious.”  

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) had last year warned that Nigeria could slip into food crisis in the coming year and that it could degenerate into social unrest. According to the Washington-based financial institution, the food crisis would result from the recent widespread flooding and extensive damage to farmlands across the states, and the rising price of fertilizer. In addition, IMF noted that the nation’s wide exchange rate, the high volatility on the parallel market and the government’s continued dependence on the CBN for budget financing are likely to contribute to higher prices.   

To be forewarned is to be forearmed.   

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