• Thursday, February 22, 2024
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Food Crisis: UN-NGOs appeal for $396m urgent response fund for Borno, others

UN chief unveils new policy brief to boost peace, security

The United Nations (UN) Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have called for an urgent response to the alarming hunger and malnutrition crisis in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe States. The UN said, “The US$396 million in funding will enable humanitarian organizations to swiftly expand food and nutrition assistance, along with supplementary interventions such as clean water and sanitation, healthcare, protection, and logistics in the BAY States.”

In a statement released to the press on Thursday, the organisation said that the fund will help scale up humanitarian action in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe (BAY) states.

In defence of the fund, the UN said: “that more than half a million people may face emergency levels of food insecurity with extremely high rates of acute malnutrition and cases of mortality if there is no rapid and significant scale-up of humanitarian assistance.”

Read also: Benue, Kaduna killings compound Nigeria;s food crisis

It presented a gory picture in the affected states, saying that an estimated 2 million children under five are likely to face wasting years—a situation that calls for immediate attention as over 700,000 children are at risk of malnutrition. “They need immediate action to survive.”

It attributed the worsening food crisis in the states to protracted conflict and insecurity, which continue to prevent more than 2 million people from returning home.

It also blamed the current fuel and food inflation, the naira cash crisis earlier in the year, and climate shocks (such as the record floods in Nigeria in 2022) as factors responsible for the worsening crisis in those affected states.

“I have seen firsthand the anguish of mothers fighting for the lives of their malnourished infants in our partner-run stabilization centres. This is a situation no one should have to face,” said Matthias Schmale, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria. “I have spoken with children who described going for days without eating enough. Mothers who said their children go to bed crying from hunger. Families are struggling to feed their families as they have gone for months without receiving food assistance.”

The UN warned that “if additional funding is not received, humanitarian partners will only reach about 300,000 of the 4.3 million at-risk people in need of food assistance during the peak of the lean season. As more people in urgent need of food aid go unassisted, there will be an increased risk of starvation and death.”

Fortunately, the World Food Programme (WFP) said that it is scaling up its operations to assist 2.1 million people with emergency food and nutrition supplies. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and nutrition partners aim to provide life-saving nutrition services to over one million malnourished children, as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) plans to reach two million people with seed packages to secure cereal production for the upcoming harvest.

“While we continue to work together to stave off catastrophe, the sheer scale of the food and nutrition crisis means that humanitarian assistance is critical right now,” said David Stevenson, the Country Representative and Country Director of WFP in Nigeria.

Cristian Munduate, the Country Representative of UNICEF in Nigeria, called for concerted efforts to protect children. “We have the power to make a difference in the lives of these children. With your support, we can prevent more children from suffering from malnutrition and give them a chance at a healthy and happy future,” she said.

Fred Kafeero, the FAO representative to Nigeria,  warned that the upcoming lean season may worsen food insecurity among vulnerable households without access to agricultural livelihood options. “FAO requires funding to reach 2 million people with urgent food and livelihood assistance in the form of critical production inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, and livelihood assets including small ruminants and poultry, and the corresponding skills to save lives, and protect and rebuild livelihoods,” he said.

With the lean season coinciding with the rainy season, humanitarian partners are also concerned about outbreaks of diseases, such as acute watery diarrhoea, cholera, and malaria, which will only aggravate the situation of malnourished children. Children suffering from malnutrition are at higher risk of dying from common infections.

To kickstart the response to the food security and nutrition crisis in north-east Nigeria, the UN has released a combined $18 million. UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mr. Martin Griffiths, has allocated $9 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and Humanitarian Coordinator Schmale will be disbursing a further $9 million from the Nigeria Humanitarian Fund (NHF).

“These CERF and NHF funds, however, account for less than five percent of what humanitarian organizations require to address the most urgent food and nutrition needs. Significant additional and early funding is urgently needed,” said Schmale. “As we have seen in previous years, early funding can help pull food insecure people back from the brink.”