Nigeria and the UN Request $306 Million for Immediate Response to Food and Nutrition Crisis

Amid a worsening food security and nutrition emergency in the states of Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe (BAY) during this lean season (May to September), the Nigerian Government, together with local and international allies, launched a fundraising initiative today aiming for US$306 million.

This funding is intended to accelerate the provision of food aid, nutritional supplements and services, sanitary water, healthcare, and support for protection for those in critical need throughout this period.

In the BAY region, approximately 4.8 million people are confronting serious food scarcity, marking a seven-year peak, as identified by the government-driven Cadre Harmonisé analysis in March. Vulnerable groups include children, pregnant and breastfeeding women, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities. The campaign, focusing on the lean season’s food security and nutritional crisis through a multisectoral approach, seeks to aid 2.8 million of these distressed individuals promptly.

Aggravated by escalating food prices, this crisis of food and nutrition mainly stems from persistent conflict and insecurity in the BAY states, along with the impacts of climate change. Without swift and unified actions, the situation is on the brink of becoming catastrophic. Over the last year, the cost of staples such as beans and maize surged by 300 to 400 percent, triggered by the fuel subsidy elimination and the devaluation of the naira, placing a burden on families unable to cope with the rampant inflation and making crucial food items prohibitively expensive.

The malnutrition levels present alarming concerns. It’s projected that around 700,000 children under the age of five will suffer from acute malnutrition in the next six months, with 230,000 of these cases expected to be severe and potentially fatal without prompt nutritional interventions and support.

At the plan’s unveiling, the National Emergency Management Agency’s Director General, Zubaida Umar, expressed: “Activating funds and resources to counteract the anticipated lean season’s food security and nutritional plight in the northeast is crucial for bolstering the Federal Government’s endeavors to avert mortality due to malnutrition-related conditions, the use of adverse coping strategies, and various health issues among others.”

The announcement of an $11 million allocation from the Nigeria Humanitarian Fund to initiate the emergency response was made by United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Mohamed Malick Fall, who stated, “I believe in our ability to meet these growing demands in collaboration with the Government’s efforts, but what we urgently require are resources. By uniting and pooling our resources, we can save lives and alleviate suffering.”

“The growing food security and nutrition emergency in the BAY states is of immense concern to UNICEF. The significant increase in severe acute malnutrition among children highlights the critical need for immediate action. This year, about 120,000 children were admitted for treatment of severe acute malnutrition with complications, significantly exceeding our forecast of 90,000. It’s imperative that we ensure all children in need have access to essential nutrition interventions. This is an urgent call to action and a battle against the clock to rescue lives and secure the futures of countless vulnerable children,” remarked Dr Rownak Khan, UNICEF Nigeria’s Acting Representative.

Emphasizing that prompt actions are necessary for lasting results, Dominique Koffy Kouacou, the Interim FAO Representative in Nigeria, stated, “Given the critical situation, immediate measures are required to cater to the short-, medium-, and long-term needs of the affected populations. Hence, the focus should be on fostering resilience through emergency agriculture support, such as providing seeds, fertilizer, livestock, and technical guidance, while also developing agribusiness for improved production and nutrition.”

“To transition from conflict to solutions, peace and production are key,” mentioned David Stevenson, the WFP Country Director. “While conflict persists in the northeast, it’s imperative we provide urgent collective support. Our aim is to enhance access to nutritious foods through cash transfers, specialized nutritious food products, and by encouraging local food solutions.”

As the lean season overlaps with the rainy season, collaborative efforts are vital to enhance access to drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene to prevent the spread of infectious diseases, especially among the over 2 million internally displaced people in camps and overcrowded settlements within the BAY states. This is essential to interrupt the vicious cycle of disease and malnutrition endangering the lives of young children and other at-risk groups.

Besides saving lives, strengthening the resilience of individuals by boosting agricultural livelihoods, which support over 80% of the vulnerable population in the BAY states, is crucial. The insufficient funding for agricultural livelihoods perpetuates the cycle of food insecurity.

This marks the fourth occasion the UN and humanitarian allies have activated an operational blueprint for the BAY states, underscoring the imperative to tackle the root causes of hunger and malnutrition. These include, but are not limited to, fostering peace-building, enhancing access to essential healthcare services, supporting food production systems, improving social protection services, and addressing climate change impacts.

The lean season’s food security and nutrition crisis multisector plan is an integral component of the 2024 UN-coordinated Humanitarian Response Plan for Nigeria. ENDS

Notes to Editor: * Annually, the Sahel region undergoes a challenging “lean season” between the sowing and harvest periods, during which food supply diminishes, livestock pasturage becomes scarce, and households resort to various coping mechanisms to fulfill their nutritional needs.

Media contacts:

OCHA: Ann Weru – +234 703 852 2706

UNICEF: Rajat Madhok – +234 913 938 6884

WFP : Chi Lael – +234 802 553 3218

FAO: David Tsokar – +234 806 616 2876

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