Are food ration cuts the way to go for crisis-hit people in north-eastern Nigeria?

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As severe hunger in north-eastern Nigeria reaches a 5-year high, ration cuts come following years of insecurity and conflict – a situation that has been heightened by the socio-economic effects of COVID-19, limited food supply, and high food prices. Moreover, in September this year, the number of internally displaced persons surpassed two million – reaching another grim milestone. After a recent visit to the country, Chris Nikoi, WFP’s Regional Director for West Africa stated that cutting rations would mean deciding who gets to eat and who sleeps hungry. Just as the hunger situation exacerbates, funding for life-saving humanitarian work has been drying up.

The decision to cut rations will come in if at least US$ 55 million in funding is not received in a matter of weeks, leaving WFP no choice but to reduce the number of people it helps – where humanitarian aid is already prioritized for the most vulnerable – as early as November. Nikoi also added that WFP’s food aid is a lifeline for millions of people whose lives have been turned upside down by conflict and who barely have anything to survive on. Immediate action is needed to save lives and avoid upsetting this lifeline. The number of people forced to flee their homes searching for safety in the northeast region of Nigeria has been continuously rising and has reached a new all-time high of more than 2 million in September 2021. Current food security analyses report 4.4 million people in northeast Nigeria who have no idea where to get their next meal and more than 1 million malnourished children.

Amid the socio-economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, other factors that have contributed unfavorably for the most vulnerable in northeast Nigeria are the ongoing attacks on communities by non-state armed groups, high food prices, harsh season conditions, and an extreme reduction in household purchasing power. WFP may soon not be able to sustain life-saving operations in north-eastern Nigeria, which is conflict-riddled, despite growing needs. If no additional resources are provided, the food assistance agency will be short of funds for nutrition support and emergency food distribution by the end of this month. Edward Kallon, United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, stated that the decision of cutting food rations will be painful for humanitarians as it will adversely affect children, women, and men displaced from their homes by the continued violence. WFP calls upon its partners to boost their support in response to the increasing needs.

For five years, the food aid agency has provided life-saving food and nutrition aid to people facing severe food insecurity, the vulnerable, and displaced families in camps, with the generous contributions from Canada, France, the European Union, Germany, Japan, Italy, Nigeria, Sweden, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, the United States of America, United Kingdom, and private donors. This year, relying on the contributions from donor partners, WFP stepped up its response to deal with the rising pandemic impact and food insecurity, targeting 1.9 million displaced people with life-saving food assistance in Nigeria. To sustain its humanitarian operations in the northeast region of Nigeria until March 2022, WFP urgently needs USD 197 million in funding.




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