By Asmau Ahmad
The United Nations and the Federal Government of Nigeria have appealed to international donors for more funds to urgently rescue vulnerable people in the North East from hunger and malnutrition.
The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria, Matthias Schmale, made the appeal at the launch of Lean Season Food Security and Nutrition Crisis, Multi-sector Plan 2023, on Thursday in Abuja.
Schmale said efforts were urgently required to avert food and nutrition crisis in the northeast, as years of protracted conflict and insecurity continued to prevent people from producing food.
The UN official noted that hunger and malnutrition had eaten deep into the region, hence the need for victims to get a survival strategy and the means to also earn income for food purchase.
Trond Jensen, Head of UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said the March 2023 Cadre Harmonise (CH), projected that 4.3 million people in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, known as the BAY states, were at risk of severe hunger.
According to Jensen, the situation will worsen at the peak of the lean season between June and August.
“More than half a million of these people will face emergency levels of food insecurity with extremely high acute malnutrition and cases of mortality predicted, unless a rapid and significant scale up of humanitarian assistance is undertaken.
“Approximately, two million children under five years of age, across the three states, will be acutely malnourished in 2023, and this will put them at a greater risk of dying from common infections, causing developmental stagnation,” he said.
He said the 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), was seeking 1.3 billion dollars to support six million people, and 396.1 million dollars was urgently needed to deliver lifesaving food security and nutrition assistance to 2.8 million persons in the region.
Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Country Representative, Fred Kafeero, said the number of food insecure people in the northeast had remained constant since 2020.
Kafeero therefore, called for more assistance towards scaling up interventions, aimed at boosting local food production and income generation for the affected populations.
According to him, about 40 million dollars is required during the 2023 lean season to enable the organisation reach 2.3 million people in BAY, and give them access to critical production inputs.
He listed the production inputs to include; fast maturing seed varieties, fertiliser and livestock feeds, among others.
“Timeliness is a critical factor in food production as it is dictated by seasons, this is the time to invest before it gets too late,” he said.
Mrs Sugra Mahamood, Director, Irrigation Agriculture and Crop Development, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), said food security analysis provided valuable insights on the need for immediate and coordinated action.
Mahamood said the people of Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states, had endured immense hardships due to various factors, including conflicts, displacement and climate-related challenges.
“It is our collective responsibility to ensure that they have access to adequate and nutritious food to meet their basic needs.
“Our commitment is to mobilise funding and resources, in order to urgently scale up our responses to the challenges at hand,” she said.