The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warns that it may soon be forced to cut food rations to more than half a million women, men and children in north-eastern Nigeria unless urgent funding is secured to continue life-saving operations in crisis-ridden Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.
The cuts would come just as severe hunger reaches a five-year high in the country in the wake of years of conflict and insecurity – a situation that has been worsened by the socio-economic fallout from COVID-19, high food prices and limited food supply. Moreover, the number of internally-displaced surpassed two million in September 2021 – reaching another grim milestone.
“Cutting rations means choosing who gets to eat and who goes to bed hungry. We are seeing funding for our life-saving humanitarian work dry up just at the time when hunger is at its most severe,” said Chris Nikoi, WFP’s Regional Director for West Africa following a recent visit to Nigeria.
If at least US$ 55 million is not received in a matter of weeks, WFP will have no choice but to cut food rations and reduce the number of people it serves – where assistance is already prioritized for the most vulnerable – as early as November.
“Our food assistance is a lifeline for millions whose lives have been upended by conflict and have almost nothing to survive on. We must act now to save lives and avoid disruptions to this lifeline,” Nikoi added.
The number of internally displaced people – people forced to flee their homes in search for safety – in northeast Nigeria has been rising steadily and reached a new all-time high of over 2 million in September 2021, while current food security analyses show that 4.4 million people in northeast Nigeria do not know where their next meal is coming from. Additionally, over 1 million children are malnourished.
Continued attacks on communities by non-state armed groups, harsh lean season conditions amid an economy dealing with the fallout from the COVID-19, high food prices and a severe reduction in household purchasing power – all contribute to a bleak outlook for the most vulnerable people in northeast Nigeria.
Despite increasing needs, WFP may soon be unable to sustain life-saving operations in conflict-riddled north-eastern Nigeria. Without additional resources, the food assistance agency will run out of funds for emergency food distribution and nutrition support by the end of October 2021.
“Cutting food assistance will be a painful decision for humanitarians as it will negatively affect children, women and men uprooted from their homes due to continued violence” said Edward Kallon, United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria. “As we call upon our partners to step up their support in response to the growing needs, I would like to say thank you to those who have stood with us over the years in providing the much-needed humanitarian assistance in the country.”
For five years, WFP has provided life-saving food and nutrition assistance to severely food insecure people, displaced families in camps, and to vulnerable people living in host communities thanks to generous contributions from Canada, the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Nigeria, Republic of Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, the United States of America, and private donors.
This year, relying on the continued generosity of donor partners, WFP ramped up its response to address rising food insecurity and the impact of COVID-19, targeting 1.9 million displaced people in Nigeria with life-saving food assistance. To sustain humanitarian operations in northeast Nigeria until March 2022, WFP urgently requires USD 197 million.