TACKLING THE GROWING HUNGER  

TACKLING THE GROWING HUNGER  

The authorities need to do more to stem this worrying challenge  

Reports that about 26.5 million Nigerians may grapple with high level of food insecurity in 2024 has come as no surprise. That came at about the same time that the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) released the October food inflation figure which jumped to 31.5 per cent. According to the figure released by the federal government and its partners during the unveiling of the October 2023 Cadre Harmonisé analysis on food insecurity, approximately nine million children are also at risk of suffering from acute malnutrition or wasting. Of these, an alarming 2.6 million children could face severe acute malnutrition (SAM) and require critical nutrition treatment. 

 The United Nations World Food Programme (UNWFP) has warned repeatedly that millions of Nigerians are at the risk of hunger as prices of foodstuff skyrocket. Recent data compiled by an international e-commerce organisation also revealed that the average Nigerian household spends about 60 per cent of its income on food, the highest in the world. In contrast, residents of the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, Singapore spend less than 10 per cent. Insecurity in many of the rural communities has made it practically difficult for farmers to engage in agricultural production optimally, thus affecting productivity and largely causing market disruptions with attendant food price shocks.  

 For years, the cost of the general insecurity, particularly in the north has adversely affected agricultural production and cost of living. Staples such as beans and tomatoes have seen astronomical surge in prices, just like onions, and cassava flour. Some states with high food prices are ironically major food-producing belt in peace times. Sokoto, for instance, is a major producer of beans, cowpea, groundnut, garlic, wheat, sugarcane, pepper, onions, and tomatoes, while groundnut, sorghum, sesame seed, maize, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and pepper are produced extensively in Plateau State.  

 With the support of the federal government and the United Nations systems, the Cadre Harmonisé, an initiative focused on food and nutrition analysis, conducts studies biannually (in March and October) across 26 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The latest projection for 2024 indicates a sharp rise from the 18.6 million people currently vulnerable to food insecurity from October to December 2023. “Food insecurity and malnutrition are among the main drivers of humanitarian need in the BAY (Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe) states,” said the head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Nigeria, Trond Jensen. “People have been forced to adopt negative coping mechanisms such as survival sex and child labour to stay alive. Over the past year, dozens of farmers have lost their lives, and others have been abducted or injured while eking out a living outside the security perimeters of Borno’s garrison towns due to limited farming lands and few or no livelihood options.” 

While urging federal and state governments in Nigeria, donors, and other stakeholders to commit resources and implement measures to avert a potential food and nutrition disaster, the UN warns that timely action is of essence. According to the World Food Programme (WFP) Country Representative, David Stevenson, “the hunger crisis in Nigeria, fueled by the ongoing conflict in the northeast, needs urgent addressing. Restoring peace in the northeast is critical for us to build pathways to production and achieve the northeast’s potential as the food basket of the country”. 

Since food is needed for survival and well-being, there is a need for urgent intervention to avert a human catastrophe in the country. With the fear of malnutrition for millions of children (and mothers) who are deprived of a healthy and productive life, the situation is already dire. We therefore enjoin authorities at all levels in the country to come up with practical solutions to the challenge of food security in Nigeria. 

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