Nigeria and the UN are launching a $306 million appeal fund to tackle the food and nutrition crisis in the Northeast

An appeal has been launched for US$306 million to address the expected food security and nutrition crisis in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states during the lean season from May to September.

The appeal was launched in Abuja on Tuesday by the Government of Nigeria and national and international partners, with the aim of expediting food assistance, nutrition supplies and services, clean water, healthcare and protection support to people in dire need during the period. in the three states hit hard by the more than decade-long Boko Haram crisis.

According to the government-led Cadre Harmonisé analysis released in March this year, some 4.8 million people are estimated to face severe food insecurity, the highest level in seven years in the BAY states.

The report specifies that children, pregnant and lactating women, the elderly and people with disabilities are among the most vulnerable.

The appeal launched on Tuesday is expected to provide urgent relief to at least 2.8 million people and desensitize them to food insecurity and nutrition crisis in the lean season as a multi-sectoral plan is being drawn up.

A statement on Tuesday from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that this food and nutrition crisis, which has been exacerbated by rising food prices, is mainly due to ongoing conflict and insecurity in the BAY states, in addition to climate change. implications. It threatens to become catastrophic without immediate and coordinated intervention. Prices of staple foods like beans and corn have risen by 300 to 400 percent in the past year due to the abolition of the fuel subsidy and the depreciation of the naira. Inflation is outpacing families’ ability to cope, making essential food items unaffordable.

It added that malnutrition rates are a major concern. About 700,000 children under the age of five are expected to be acutely malnourished in the next six months, including 230,000 who are expected to be severely acutely malnourished and at risk of death if they do not receive timely treatment and nutritional support.

Speaking at the launch of the plan, Director General of the National Emergency Management Agency, Zubaida Umar said: “The mobilization of financing and resources to address this lean seasonal food security and nutrition crisis expected in the northeastern part of the country, is a step in the right direction to complement the federal government’s efforts to prevent human deaths from malnutrition-related complications, the adoption of negative coping mechanisms and other health-related issues.”

Announcing the release of $11 million from the Nigeria Humanitarian Fund to boost emergency response, Mohamed Malick Fall, United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, said: “I am confident that we have the capacity to meet these increased needs in support of the Government’s efforts. What we need now are resources. Joining hands, pooling resources, to save lives and end suffering.”

The Acting Representative of UNICEF Nigeria, Dr. Rownak Khan, on his part, said: “UNICEF is deeply concerned about the escalating food security and nutrition crisis in the BAY States. The alarming increase in severe acute malnutrition among children underlines the urgent need for immediate action. This year alone we have seen approximately 120,000 admissions for the treatment of severe acute malnutrition with complications, far exceeding our estimated target of 90,000. We must ensure that life-saving nutritional products reach every child in need. This isn’t just a call to action; it is a race against time to save lives and protect the future of millions of vulnerable children,”

Dominique Koffy Kouacou, Interim Representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Nigeria, while emphasizing the need for immediate action for longer-term results, said: “Given the urgent situation, urgent interventions are needed to address the short-term medium-term support. – and the long-term needs of vulnerable populations. The focus should therefore be on building resilience, supported by emergency agriculture, including seeds, fertilizers, livestock and technical training, and developing the agricultural industry for better production and better nutrition.”

World Food Program (WFP) Country Director David Stevenson said: “We need to avoid conflict and look for solutions, and the solution is peace and production. Meanwhile, a conflict persists in the Northeast that requires our collective urgent assistance. We prioritize access to nutritious food by offering cash, specialist nutritious food and supporting local food solutions.”

The OCHA statement notes that as the lean season coincides with the rainy season, there is a need for collective efforts to improve access to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene to combat the spread of infectious diseases, especially among the more than 2 million people. internally displaced people in camps and overcrowded settlements in the BAY states. This is crucial to break the vicious cycle of disease and malnutrition that threatens the lives of young children and other vulnerable people.

It further states that in addition to efforts to protect lives, there is also a need to strengthen people’s resilience by supporting agricultural livelihoods, which support more than 80 percent of vulnerable people in the BAY states. Limited agricultural livelihood financing continues to perpetuate cyclical food insecurity.

It recalled that this is the fourth time that the UN and humanitarian partners have launched an operational plan for the BAY States, highlighting the need to address the root causes of hunger and malnutrition. This includes, but is not limited to, promoting peacebuilding efforts, improving access to essential health care services, supporting food production systems, improving social protection services, and mitigating climate change shocks.

The multi-sectoral lean season food security and nutrition crisis plan is part of the 2024 UN-coordinated Humanitarian Response Plan for Nigeria.

Every year, countries in the Sahel face a difficult period between planting and harvesting. During this time, food supplies are low, grazing land for livestock is scarce, and households rely on different coping strategies to meet their food needs.

Michael Olugbode in Abuja

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