Number of hunger-ravaged Nigerians to hit 20m

The impact of the Russia-Ukraine war is expected to further increase the number of Nigerians facing acute food insecurity by 6.7 million to 19.5 million in 2022 from 12.8 million in 2021, according to a recent global report on food crisis.

The report by the United Nations (UN) World Food Programme also shows that the projection which is a 52.3 percent increase compared to 2021 puts Africa’s biggest economy among the top ten countries with the worst food crisis.

“Some food-crisis countries are of particular concern due to their high dependency on both food and fertiliser imports from Ukraine and Russia, and their vulnerability to global food price shocks,” the report stated.

It listed the largest of these importers to include Yemen, Sudan, Nigeria and Ethiopia, which are consistently among the world’s ten largest food-crisis countries.

The UN defines food insecurity as “a lack of consistent access to food, which diminishes dietary quality, disrupts normal eating patterns, and can have negative consequences for nutrition, health and well-being.”

The projected increase means that the living standards of Nigerians could further worsen, thereby leading to an increase in poverty.

At the Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Economic Outlook held in Abuja on Monday, Matthias Schmale, United Nations resident and humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, said there were already 15 million people in acute need of food support in the country and that was before the Ukraine-Russia conflict and their prognosis right now is that this may rise to 19.5 million.

Read also: Top 10 food items Nigerians spent more on in April

“Basically, all the 80 million who live below the poverty line in Nigeria are food insecure. Almost 50 million people currently need help. If we want to avoid serious damage to the house, and serious hunger, I mean, a few weeks or months. So there needs to be an element of social protection and direct support to these people.”

Before the crisis, Nigerians were already struggling with surging food prices, but the crisis has now intensified their hardship, with prices increasing further in the weeks since it started.

Already, the World Bank in its Commodity Markets Outlook, forecasts that energy and non-energy-based commodity prices will be up by about 50 percent and 20 percent respectively in 2022.

A major area of impact in Nigeria has been food prices, since both countries at war are major producers and exporters of agricultural commodities, particularly grains, and countries like Nigeria depend heavily on them for inputs in direct human consumption and industrial processing.

“The development has added more strain on consumers’ finances with their purchasing power becoming weaker,” Damilola Adewale, a Lagos-based economic analyst said.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, inflation surged to 16.82 percent in April 2022, the highest in eight months compared to 15.90 percent in the previous month. Also, food inflation, which comprises more than 50 percent of inflation, rose 2.0 percent points higher to 18.37 percent, the highest in seven months compared to 17.20 percent in March.

Before inflation started rising steadily, there were 82.9 million poor Nigerians but the number has risen to 90.1 million in 2021 and is projected to hit 95.1 million in 2022, a recent World Bank report shows.

“There is an urgent need to increase the social safety net for the vulnerable population,” Schmale said.

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