Nigeria Entrapped in Acute Food Insecurity

A recent United Nations’ Global Report on Food Crises has projected that the number of people to face high levels of acute food insecurity in Nigeria is expected to increase, writes Dike Onwuamaeze

Nigeria is faced with worsening acute food insecurity. The recently released United Nation’s “2023 Global Report on Food Crises,” projected that 26.5 million people in Nigeria, or 13 per cent of the analysed population of 209.3 million, are projected to face high levels of acute food insecurity between June and August 2024.

This increase in numbers reflected additional coverage that included 16 million people, worsening insecurity and high inflation. About one million people are projected in CH Phase 4. Around 0.5 million IDPs in Borno, Sokoto and Zamfara are projected to face high levels of acute food insecurity.  

The report also estimated that 24.9 million people in Nigeria, or 13 per cent of the analysed population of 193.6 million, were faced with high levels of acute food insecurity in 2023.

Also, about 1.1 million people were in emergency (CH Phase 4). This significant increase since the 2022 peak is attributable to expanded analysis to cover further vulnerable states, about 35 million additional people, as well as conflict/insecurity and economic shocks.

About 0.4 million IDPs, or 75 per cent of the analysed IDP population in Benue, Sokoto and Zamfara, were also faced with high levels of acute food insecurity in 2023.

The report highlighted that Nigeria, a lower middle income country, has been protracted experiencing major food crisis and has been included in all editions of the GRFC as a major food crisis nation, with acute food insecurity worst in the conflict-affected northeastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.

The coverage expanded from 16 states in 2016–2020 to 21 states and the Federal Capital Territory in 2021, and to 26 states in 2023, over 90 percent of the population.

In Borno, around 55 000 people faced Catastrophe (CH Phase 5) in late 2016 and 50 000 in mid-2017. In October–December 2022, 3 000 people were in this phase. No populations were estimated in Catastrophe for 2023 or projected for 2024.

The report defined acute food insecurity as “any manifestation of food insecurity at a specific point in time that is of a severity that threatens lives, livelihoods or both, regardless of the causes, context or duration.”

These acute states are highly susceptible to change and can manifest in a population within a short amount of time, as a result of sudden changes or shocks that negatively impact the determinants of food insecurity and malnutrition. Transitory food insecurity is a short-term or temporary inability to meet food consumption requirements related to sporadic crises, indicating a capacity to recover.


Major causes of food crisis in Nigeria, according to the report, are confilic/insecurity, economic shocks and weather extreme.

The report said: “In 2023, insurgents in northeastern Nigeria, mostly in Borno, raided croplands and triggered population displacement, while widespread insecurity in northwestern and north-central regions also displaced households and impaired harvests and market functionality.”

It added that economic shocks propelled by currency devaluation and surging petrol prices raised transportation and food costs, especially in conflict areas. “High agricultural input prices constrained production. Inflation increased, reaching the highest since 1996 in January 2024.

“Favourable weather conditions were positive for the 2023/24 cropping season, though pockets of drought in Bauchi, Borno and Yobe states adversely affected agricultural output in local areas.”


The food crisis in Nigeria is also aggravating malnutrition among children and nursing mothers in the country. About 5.9 million children under five years old experienced acute malnutrition in northwestern and northeastern areas between May 2022 and April 2023.

Similarly, 600,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women experienced acute malnutrition in May 2023–April 2024.

One-fifth of analysed areas were classified in Critical (IPC AMN Phase 4) largely due to insecurity, poor diet and collapsed services.  


One of the drivers of acute food insecurity is inadequate practices. According to the report, the minimum acceptable diet among children aged six to 23 months ranged from serious to critical. The situation is further aggravated by poor childcare practices, including inadequate exclusive breastfeeding.  

Another driver of cute malnutrition is lack of food. “High levels of acute food insecurity driven by high food prices and inflation contributed to poor food consumption in terms of both quantity and quality,” the report said.

The third driver of acute malnutrition is inadequate services. According to the report, “poor health-seeking iarrhea, the collapse of health and nutrition services as well as limited access to WASH infrastructures contribute to the high prevalence of disease among children, including fever, malaria, acute respiratory infections and iarrhea as well as measles and cholera outbreaks.”  

West Africa and the Sahel

The report also gave a broader perspective on food crisi in West Africa and Sahel region. It stated that escalating conflicts in West Africa and the Sahel and neighbouring Sudan have sustained high levels of acute food insecurity in 2023. Weather extremes also remained significant drivers of food crises in many countries.

It also said that high levels of displacement and acute malnutrition heightened the complexity of the food crises. In some countries, favourable agricultural outputs led to improvements, tempering the negative effects of sustained inflation, market disruptions and livelihood losses.

According to the report, 44.3 million people, or 11 per cent of the analysed population, faced high levels of acute food insecurity in 2023 in 14 countries.

Also, 9.7 million forcibly displaced people in 13 food-crisis countries in 2023 – consisting of 7.5 million IDPs and 2.2 million refugees and asylum-seekers.

In addition, 14 million acutely malnourished children in 14 food-crisis countries with 3.9 million of them are suffering the most severe form of wasting.

How has the food crises in this region changed since 2022?

According to the report, escalating conflict/insecurity, mostly in

Sahelian countries, coupled with persisting economic shocks that have affected countries across the region, were the primary drivers sustaining high levels of acute food insecurity.

The overall share of population facing high levels of acute food insecurity decreased slightly since 2022, when it was the highest, at 12.5 percent of the population analysed.

It said: “Expanded analysis coverage largely explain the increases in the number of people facing high levels of acute food insecurity since 2022 in two countries: in Chad, coverage expanded from 94 per cent to 100 percent of the population, while in Nigeria it increased from 72 per cent to 91 per cent.”  

Nine countries were classified as major food crises, with Nigeria having by far the largest population facing high acute food insecurity, followed by Burkina Faso, the Niger, Cameroon, Chad, Senegal, Mali, Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire, each surpassing 1 million people in these phases.

Severity of food insecurity

All 14 food crises in the region had analyses with data disaggregated by phase of acute food insecurity. 45 200 people in catastrophe across two countries. Around 42 700 of them were in the Sahel and Boucle du Mouhoun regions in Burkina Faso between June and August 2023, where worsening conflict and insecurity severely impeded the functioning of markets and prevented populations from adequately accessing basic foods, with some areas under security blockade. This number of people in Catastrophe represented the highest on record for in Burkina Faso, nearly doubling from 22,500 people during March–May 2023.

The remaining 2,500 people in catastrophe were in the Ménaka region in Mali during June–August 2023, with conflict and high population displacement at the root of these conditions. This represents the first time in history that people have faced this most severe form of acute food insecurity in Mali.

Compared with 2022, this situation marks an improvement in Nigeria, from 3 000 people estimated in this phase in October–December 2022 to none in 2023.

The severity of acute food insecurity was higher among Sahelian countries such as Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, the Niger and Mali, reflecting the effects of protracted conflict/insecurity.

Nigeria had the largest number of people, mostly in northern states while Burkina Faso had the highest share of people in this phase at nearly 3.0 per cent.

Cameroon, Chad, Liberia, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo experienced increases in the number of people since 2022, indicating more severe conditions. Conversely, Guinea, Mauritania and the Niger saw significant reductions, suggesting improvements in food access and availability, particularly in remote conflict[1]affected areas.

Outlook for 2024

The report stated that persistent conflicts, with further associated displacement movements, and lingering economic shocks are expected to maintain high levels of acute food insecurity in 2024.

It projected that this situation is likely to be exacerbated by localised climate shocks during the 2023 agricultural season in certain countries, despite average seasonal rainfall leading to overall favourable agricultural and pastoral conditions.  

 At the regional level, the number of people facing high levels of acute food insecurity is projected at 44.4 million in the 13 countries with CH data in both 2023 and 2024, which represents an additional 670 000 people compared with 2023.

This increase is largely attributable to increased analysis coverage. The population analysed increased by 18 million people in 12 out of the 13 countries with data for 2023 (mostly in Nigeria, Guinea and Mauritania). This includes about two million people in emergency, a significant decline compared with 2.7 million in 2023.

As of the January cut-off date for data inclusion, no populations were projected to face catastrophe. This implied a decline in severity based on increased humanitarian assistance and assumptions of slightly improved security conditions in some heavily conflict[1]affected areas for the projected period.

However, analyses of March 2024 updated several projections for the June–August 2024 lean season and estimated 2,600 people would be in Catastrophe in Mali.  

At the country level, the share of population facing high levels of acute food insecurity was projected to increase in Chad by four percentage points); Sierra Leone, three percentage points and to a lesser extent Mali at 0.3 percentage points.

The other ten countries were projected to experience decreases in the number of people facing high levels of acute food insecurity, mostly based on improved food supplies from favourable 2023 season outputs and subdued inflation.

The prevalence in Nigeria is projected to marginally decline from 12.8 percent to 12.6 percent of the analysed population. However, the number of people projected to face high levels of acute food insecurity is expected to increase.

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