The number of people requiring food assistance in north-eastern Nigeria has dramatically doubled since March, rising to 4.5 million people according to a mid-August analysis (Cadre Harmonisé).
A declining economy could see this figure rise by one million by as early as next month, with the UN World Food Program (WFP) warning of soaring food prices in areas affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.
“The news comes as in the past days alone, tens of people have been killed or injured in Nigeria and in neighbouring Chad, Cameroon and Niger – an indication that Boko Haram violence is set to keep pushing more people into hunger and suffering,” said Abdou Dieng, WFP’s Regional Director for West Africa.
According to the analysis, the number of people struggling with severe food insecurity has risen fourfold since March. This level of food insecurity is classified as ‘emergency stage’ meaning that people generally need food assistance in order to survive.
More than 65,000 people, located in newly liberated but still inaccessible areas in Borno and Yobe, are estimated to be facing famine-like conditions.
“All indications point to an extremely grave situation. As the rains set in and the lean season deepens, and more areas are opened up to access humanitarian aid, the full scale of hunger and devastation is likely to come to light,” Dieng added.
The situation remains uncertain as more people are uprooted in areas where fighting takes place. While formerly displaced citizens returning to uninhabitable homes are forced to stay in urban areas are relying entirely on external assistance. Further burdened with spiraling inflation, families have to beg, run up debts or skip meals to survive. Many are reduced to consuming low-nutrient foods only once a day.
WFP is scaling up its response, aiming to reach over 700,000 people with food and cash assistance in the coming months. This will include specialized nutritious food for 150,000 children under age five. Much of it, as well as medicines, vaccines and medical equipment, is being delivered through the WFP-managed United Nations Humanitarian Air Service, frequently used by the wider humanitarian community.