Red Cross Alerts on Rising Hunger in Nigeria, Appeals for Local, Int’l Funding

•Says only 8% of financing needs currently available  

•Expands assistance to persons with acute food insecurity to 13 states  

•Laments 828m people go to bed hungry daily

Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja

The Nigerian Red Cross Society (NRCS) yesterday alerted Nigerians and the international community to the acute food insecurity in the country, with 25 million Nigerians now affected by severe hunger and malnutrition.

In a parley with the media in Abuja, the Red Cross supported by the International Federation of the Red Cross Society (IFRS) and Red Crescent Society (RCS), appealed for donations from the public and private sectors to mitigate the unsavoury situation.

It disclosed that whereas 27 million CHF (Swiss Francs) is needed to help the most vulnerable, the programme is currently only funded to the tune of 2.1 million CHF, representing less than 8 per cent of the financing need.

In a presentation during the event, the Director of Programmes of the Red Cross in Nigeria, Andronicus Adeyemo, noted that the Hunger Crisis Emergency Appeal is supporting the organisation in addressing the situation of acute hunger in Nigeria and targeting 200,000 people (33,000 households), but has now been scaled up to reach 1 million people.

The Hunger Crisis Appeal, he said, was initially aimed at assisting seven states of Nigeria namely: Jigawa, Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara, Benue, Nasarawa, and Niger but is now expanding to six additional branches: the Federal Capital Territory, Kaduna, Kano, Lagos, Imo and Kebbi.

Quoting from available data, he explained that according to the 2022 Nigeria Multi-dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) survey, nearly 133 million people, or  62.9 per cent of the population, is considered multi-dimensionally poor.

He explained that this means they suffer from multiple forms of deprivation, affecting at least 26 per cent of weighted indicators, with the poorest states in terms of the MPI value, which measures both the extent and severity of poverty, being Sokoto, Bayelsa, Jigawa, Kebbi, Gombe, and Yobe.

“The projected number of people at risk to acute hunger is expected to reach 24.8 million, accounting for approximately 13 per cent of the analysed population in June-August 2023.

“The latest projections are expected in early November 2023 and are likely to be higher due to inflationary pressures on the economy as a result of the removal of fuel subsidies and floating of the naira,” he added.

Adeyemo listed the drivers of the hunger crisis as economic challenges, floods, banditry insurgency, kidnapping, and farmer-herder clashes in several north-western and north-central states, impeding food production  2022/3.

Such disruptions, he said, are causing, population displacement, civilian casualties, market disruptions, and loss of livelihoods.

In his intervention, Secretary General, Nigerian Red Cross Society, Dr. Abubakar Kende, who took participants through the evolution of the Red Cross, said the organisation was built on the central principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence and voluntary service. Others, he said include unity and universality.

Also, the  President, Nigerian Red Cross,  Oluyemisi Adeaga, explained that on World Food Day, a day that is set aside to promote worldwide awareness of hunger and promote action for the future of food, people, and the planet, an estimated 828 million people, about 10 per cent of the global population, go to bed hungry every day.

In Nigeria, he said that about 25 million are at risk of severe hunger and malnutrition, many of them women and children.

“Our initial target was seven states in north-west and north-central Nigeria. That number has now been scaled up to 13 states as we are seeing an increase in the number of people who are going hungry due to a multiplicity of factors.

“Issues like banditry, rising inflation, worsening economic conditions, the Russia/Ukraine crisis and lack of access to farms in parts of Nigeria have all combined to make many Nigerians poorer and made access to food harder than usual.

“Like all great nations, we must prioritise the food needs of our citizens. It is not just a matter of dignity, but a matter of urgent national security. The rising number of people who are food insecure is a threat to Nigeria’s peace and stability.

“We call on all well-meaning people and organisations to join the efforts of the Nigerian Red Cross Society to bring relief to some of the most vulnerable members of our society who now face the human indignity of not knowing where their next meal will come from,” he appealed.

He noted that the scaled-up Emergency Hunger Appeal will reach over 1 million people with cash assistance that will allow them to support their household needs, and also provide cash support to pregnant and lactating mothers to prevent infant malnutrition and provide support to over 500 mothers clubs.

The Head, Abuja Country Delegation, Mr. Bhupinder Tomar, noted that in the last two to three years, people in Nigeria have suffered multiple shocks, including floods and diseases.

He explained that this has been made worse by increased insecurity and instability in some parts of Nigeria, as well as by external shocks like Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine, which have an impact on prices.

According to him, a combination of these problems has led to an annual increase in people who are not able to feed themselves, noting that the number is likely to keep increasing.

Expressing happiness that the government was stepping up and calling the situation a national emergency, he noted that because of the enormity of the problem, solutions will need to be sought from outside the country and the government.

“The media can play a prominent role to communicate that message to the people who have means in Nigeria to be able to provide that support. In addition, international assistance to the domestic government support is not enough,” he said.

The programme also featured a panel discussion involving the Senior Communications Officer, Africa Hunger Crisis Appeal, Anne Wanjiru, Kende, Tomar and CSP Technical Support, Nigeria Catherine Makwe.

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