Sunday, 3rd December 2023

Why food insecurity may persist

By Gbenga Akinfenwa
06 February 2022   |   4:11 am
Acute hunger and food insecurity may worsen in Nigeria in the next few months, if urgent steps were not taken to forestall the looming famine.

A farmer applying fertilizer on crops

Acute hunger and food insecurity may worsen in Nigeria in the next few months, if urgent steps were not taken to forestall the looming famine.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), who gave the warning, also identified Ethiopia, South Sudan and Yemen as other countries to experience starvation and death as a result of food crisis.

At the ongoing African Union (AU) Summit, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where African leaders launched: “Year of Nutrition” to help millions of people facing hunger, the FAO alert was brought to the front burner, as leaders in the continent underscored the need to boost funding for agriculture, address peace and security challenges, as well as tackle unequal access to opportunities in the continent.

According to the Nigeria Food Insecurity Fact sheet released by Oxfam, one in five people (282 million) is now under-nourished and 93 million in 36 African countries are suffering extreme levels of hunger, with women and children the major victims.

The report showed that in Sub-Saharan Africa, one in three children under five is stunted by chronic under nutrition, while two out of five women of childbearing age are anaemic because of poor diets.

While some populations in conflict-affected areas in the northeast are now projected to slide into catastrophic food insecurity from June 2022 onwards, it was learnt that some of the states might start to experience food crisis even earlier, than June, with the fear that the magnitude intensity may be deeper than what the projections anticipate.

The report has it that the violence between farmers and herders in the central and southern states of the country has claimed lives, disrupting rural communities and threatening Nigeria’s food security.

The UN estimates that food prices in Sub-Saharan Africa are now between 30 to 40 per cent higher than the rest of the world, taking into account comparative levels of Gross Domestic Products (GDP) per capita.

According to the Oxfam’s Pan-African Programme Director, Peter Kamalingin, the triple threat of the climate crisis, COVID-19, and conflict will require an extraordinary response from African leaders.

He said many countries have already taken important steps in forms of increasing investment in healthcare, providing shock responsive social protection systems and empowering local, women-led, peace building initiatives, noting however, that such actions are still inadequate.

“People are having to skip meals to feed their children, selling livestock and other assets, begging, pulling children out of school, or harvesting immature crops. Over three million people in Somalia have recently migrated, in large part because of hunger, while millions of households in pastoralist communities in Chad, Benin, Niger, Mali and Mauritania say they are having to sell more animals than they otherwise would to pay for more food,” said Kamalingin.

While noting that African leaders must prioritise food, trade and medicines over bullets, guns and bombs, Kamalingin lamented that instead of allocating 15 per cent of national budgets to the health sector and 10 per cent to agriculture, military spending across Africa rose by over five per cent in 2020, adding that there is a lot more the continent’s leaders can do to improve food security.

According to the report, communities in southern Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, and Malawi are struggling to cope with the cumulative consequences of climatic shocks and COVID-19 economic shocks.

“Until the 2022 harvest begins in April, many countries, including Madagascar, will continue to rely on food assistance. Farmers and pastoralists have been particularly hit by food insecurity. Droughts on the continent have decimated thousands of hectares of crops and depleted livestock, often a primary source of income. COVID-19 restrictions have caused delays in the trade of critical agricultural inputs like fertilizer.

President of the Union des Riziculteurs de Paoua (URP), in the Central African Republic, Jean-Paul Ndopoye, said: “Our major problem is the sale of farm products. With the security crisis and the calamitous state of the roads, we can no longer travel to sell these products in neighboring towns and countries such as Chad. Our wish is to be connected to profitable marketing channels to sell all these products.”

Achta Bintou, who now lives in the Amma site in Lake Chad, after her displacement from her home, told Oxfam: “Today, the crisis has completely changed our lives. We had to move from Boma to the Amma site where we live in a makeshift shelter that barely hides the sun. Our water is not drinkable and we cannot get enough to eat. Imagine your diet dropping from three meals a day to one.”