• Thursday, April 18, 2024
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BusinessDay

Families skip meals to survive cost-of-living crisis in Nigeria

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The growing economic hardship is mounting pressure on Nigerians and pushing families to seek strategies to survive hunger.

In many homes, food has ceased to be something that family members eat to their satisfaction. It is now a matter of having something in the stomach, no matter how small. No thanks to the biting economic hardship in the land.

Read also: Hunger, anger ignite unprecedented food looting

Today, many now find it extremely difficult to afford three square meals a day. Parents have drastically reduced the feeding money of their children every morning they leave for school even though such an amount no longer afford them any comfort.

They now have to ration food and skip meals to manage the little food items available. Even though the purchasing power of households has declined, food prices are also costly.

Nigeria’s economy is in turmoil and the country is battling with cost-push inflation. This is evident in the inflation rate accelerating to 31.70 percent in February.

Nigerians are now battling to eat two decent meals a day as prices of food items keep surging beyond the masses’ reach.

Read also: Hunger: Lamentation spreads across Nigeria

Presently, buying food items for family use is taking a large chunk of the monthly income of households as over 50 percent of people’s income now goes into feeding.

Food inflation, which constitutes 50 percent of the inflation rate, rose to 37.92 percent in February from 35.41 percent in January, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

The soaring inflation rate has improvised and pushed many Nigerians below the poverty line.

According to the World Bank’s report, Nigeria’s poverty rate rose from 40 percent in 2018 to 46 percent in 2023. The World Bank said that the number of poor people in Nigeria increased from 79 million to 104 million.

The report stated that more people have fallen below the poverty line due to accelerating inflation, flopping naira and slow growth.

To cope with the hardship, families are trying their best to manage the little resources at their disposal.

“I earn a monthly salary of between N40,000 and N50,000 from the factory where I work. It is from this meagre salary that I try to weather all the storms,” said Francis Ebom, a father of two children.

Ebom said his monthly income is no longer paying his bills as the family manages to ration the small food that he can afford between the four family members.

“My children now eat twice a day, which is breakfast and dinner while my wife and I sometimes eat only once a day because eating has become a luxury. Food items are now very expensive. A bucket of garri now sells for N2,500 while a derica of rice, Nigeria’s commonest staple food now sells for between N1,200 and N1,500,” he said.

Divine Aigbe, a hairdresser, said the hardship in the country is hitting hard on her family.

According to her, the money realised from her hair dressing salon has reduced drastically as people hardly come to make their hair these days due to the biting prices.

“A plate of food is difficult to come by and my children only manage to eat twice daily. I snack during the day at work and only eat when I get home at night,” Aigbe said.

She said she no longer makes soup in her house because of the expensive nature of food items.

“Meats and fish are very expensive to buy these days. A derica of egusi, which is the easiest soup to make, is heading to N2,000 while a derica of ogbono is more than N3,000 making it difficult for families to cook soup to swallow,” she explained.

Snadra Nkemdilim, a staff of an airline, said that eating has become very expensive at the airport and making it very hard for her to feed at the airport while on duty.

“I don’t worry about food any time I’m on duty because of how expensive it is to buy food at the airport. I endure till I return home in the evening before eating,” she said.

Funke Adebanjo, a teacher, said the situation is affecting teachers the most because their salaries are very meager.

“I earn N25,000 as salary every month and my husband is an auto mechanic who doesn’t have a job every day. What can such little income do for us? We live by the day. Sometimes two times and in some cases once a day depending on the money at hand,” she said.

How are Nigerians surviving the hardship?

Many families are devising several strategies to survive the pressing economic situation in the country. Some of these ways are:

Bulk buying

Nigerians are using the bulk buying mechanism as a survival strategy that helps people to cope with climbing food prices. Today, food items add money every week and people who earn sizable salaries put resources together to buy food items that would last them for a little longer.

“In the last few months, the prices of eggs have been surging weekly. It adds between N200 and N300 per crate weekly. This is why I prefer to buy between two to three crates at a stretch to avoid price acceleration,” said Jessica Sunday, a nurse.

According to her, buying food items that last for at least three months for her family enables her to save costs.

“I buy foodstuffs including beans, rice, onions, tomatoes, oil, stock fish and others in bulk to reduce cost,” she said.

Cooperative contribution scheme

Joining a cooperative society where members put money together little by little to help each other has been playing a significant role in helping many Nigerians cope with the present economic hardship.

Bilikisi Adeyomo, a trader, told BusinessDay Sunday, that a group of market women formed a cooperative where they make weekly contributions and people take turns to take home their savings.

“We request for individual take-home based on our needs. Whenever I take home my savings, I use it to solve a pending family need. In most cases, I use the money to restock my house to ensure that my children do not lack anything, especially in the face of the growing hardship,” said the mother of three.

Bayo Akintunde, an HR expert, told our correspondent that he is a member of a cooperative society in his office and the society has been helping him to survive.

“We buy foodstuffs through our cooperative and pay for them little by little. The cooperative deducts the money from our salaries and that makes it easier for the impact not to be felt as it should,” he added.

In 2021, the United Nations (UN) World Food Programme (WFP) had raised the alarm that families in Nigeria and 42 other countries were being forced to eat less or skip meals entirely, warning that the number of people teetering on the edge of famine in 43 those countries had risen to 45 million – up by three million in 2021 – as acute hunger spikes worldwide.

The report had stated at that time that “The country’s human development indicators are poor. Persistent poverty affects more than half the population, most severely in the Northeast and Northwest regions. In addition, Nigeria is also subject to periodic droughts and floods; this has had an adverse impact on agricultural output and increased the vulnerability of populations, especially in rural areas.”

It pointed out that “Around 110 million Nigerians, representing over 60 per cent of the total population, live below the poverty line.”

The situation has since worsened, with many more people going hungry in Nigeria as a result food inflation.