25m Nigerians at risk of severe hunger in 2023, FAO warns
Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has warned that some 25 million Nigerians risk severe hunger between June and August this year.
An October 22 report by the United Nations agency, which confirmed existing 17 million famished Nigerians, cautioned that the figure would hit the 25 million mark in the predicted period if urgent efforts are not taken to stem the tide.
FAO identified drivers of the unsavoury development to include persistent conflicts, climate change, inflation and rising food prices. It noted that access to food has been affected by unrelenting terrorism in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (BAY), as well as banditry and abductions in Katsina, Sokoto, Kaduna, Benue and Niger states.
It recalled that the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) reported that last year’s flooding claimed more than 676,000 hectares of farmland, diminished harvests and increased food insecurity across Nigeria.
The UN agency said more extreme weather patterns affecting starvation are anticipated in the future.
FAO noted that of the 17 million people currently facing famine, three million are in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states, stating that without immediate action, the figure might rise to 4.4 million in the lean season. They include vulnerable displaced populations and returnees, who are already struggling to survive a large-scale humanitarian crisis in which 8.3 million people need assistance.
Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria, Matthias Schmale, submitted: “The food security and nutrition situation across Nigeria is deeply concerning. I have visited nutrition stabilisation centres filled with children, who are fighting to stay alive. We must act now to ensure they and others get the life-saving support they need.
“Children are the most vulnerable to food insecurity. Approximately six of the 17 million food insecure Nigerians today are children under the age of 5, living in Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Sokoto, Katsina and Zamfara states. There is a serious risk of mortality among children, attributed to acute malnutrition. In the BAY states alone, the number of children suffering from acute malnutrition is expected to increase from 1.74 million in 2022 to two million in 2023.”
He pointed out that UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund), working with government and partners such as MSF and ALIMA, is investing in scaling up preventive nutrition interventions, while ensuring that vulnerable children have access to life-saving nutrition services.
In 2022, UNICEF was able to reach approximately 650,000 children with critical nutrition services across the six states.