FAO warns 24.8 Million Nigerians face acute nutrition and food crisis amid fuel and cash scarcity

March 17, 2023
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Around 24.8 million Nigerians across 26 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) could face an acute nutrition and food crisis from June to August, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)’s Cadre Harmonise (CH).

The CH is an early warning tool developed to prevent and manage food and nutrition crises, the News Agency of Nigeria reports.

The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) leads the initiative in Nigeria, with support from FAO, World Food Programme (WFP), Save the Children, UNICEF, Mercy Corps, and others.

The report projects that about 17.7 million people, including 14,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), will experience a serious crisis or worse through May 2023.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s Naira Re-design policy is cited as one of the crisis’s key drivers, as it has created significant barriers for households to access cash and food commodities.

“The withdrawal of the old notes from circulation created serious bottlenecks to households’ ability to access cash, as well as food commodities,” the report states.

Insecurity and fuel scarcity contributing to the crisis

Insecurity, particularly in the North East states of Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe, as well as armed banditry and kidnapping for ransom in the North West and North Central states, also contribute to the crisis.

Prolonged scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) and rising transportation fares and food costs further exacerbate the situation.

“Prolonged scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), commonly called petrol, and the associated hike in its pump price across the states, has led to an astronomical rise in transport fares and cost of food products in Nigerian markets,” the report notes.

Inflation challenges, Covid hangover

The general consumer price index has increased from 15.7% in February 2022 to 21.9% in February 2023, a 39.49% increase within one year. Food consumption levels have remained inadequate in many states, with some local government areas (LGAs) in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe falling under the crisis phase.

“The nutrition situation deduced from the IPC Acute Malnutrition Projection for January to April 2023 covering, Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe, as well as Katsina, Sokoto, and Zamfara, shows the prevalence of crisis to worse nutrition situation across the states,” the report highlights.

Job losses and reductions in household income due to the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have forced households to adopt emergency livelihood coping strategies.

The March 2023 Cadre Harmonise analysis covers 26 states and the FCT.

The report states, “other factors driving acute food and nutrition insecurity conditions include job losses and reduction in household income due to the long-term effects of COVID-19 pandemic, which forced most households to adopt emergency livelihood coping strategies.”

Recommendations to address the crisis

The report recommends that the government and humanitarian community sustain life-saving interventions, food assistance, and social welfare packages for vulnerable populations in affected areas.

It also advises that government, civil society organizations, and private actors facilitate humanitarian access to inaccessible or hard-to-reach areas to provide basic assistance to those in critical need.

“Sustain/promote various resilience building interventions for households through MSMEs, prioritizing the vulnerable populations to enable them to get a fresh start-up for their livelihood, as well as dry-season agricultural production inputs,” the CH recommends.

The report emphasizes the need to consistently strengthen and expand the composition of the State Analysis Task Force (SATF) and continually apply the CH analysis results as a tool for response planning, policy formulation, and resource allocation to address challenges among vulnerable populations and zones.

“Thus, states should consistently strengthen and expand the composition of the State Analysis Task Force (SATF) to ensure plurality,” the CH adds.

The report also calls for a concerted effort from the government, humanitarian community, civil society organizations, and private actors to mitigate the acute nutrition and food crisis faced by millions of Nigerians. Life-saving interventions, food assistance, social welfare packages, and resilience-building programs are recommended to support vulnerable populations in affected areas.

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