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1.6 million Nigerian children among 11 million at risk of starvation across eleven countries


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ABOUT 1.6 million kids in Nigeria are among 11 million children under five years of age that are at risk of extreme hunger and starvation across eleven countries, according to a recent report by Save the Children, a leading global humanitarian organisation for children.

The 11 countries in Africa, the Caribbean, ‎Middle East and Asia are Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen.

The report, published on November 30, 2020, stated that a total of 1,651,700 children under five years of age in North East and North West Nigeria are at risk of hunger and starvation.

The Boko Haram insurgency in North East and North West Nigeria has reportedly had a negative impact on food availability as a result of destruction of agriculture, ‎disruptions in the food distribution system, displacement of families and death of bread winners, among other factors.

In a recent development, at least 43 rice farmers were killed by Boko Haram in Zabarmari, a community in Jere Local Government Area of Borno State, on November 28, a development which analysts believe would further compound food security challenges in Nigeria with farmers now wary of going to their farms.

‎Save the Children, in the report, analysed populations facing food insecurity across eleven of the worst affected countries in the world, using data from the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Integrated Phase Classification / Cadre Harmonise (CH) – a famine early warning system.

Then, using‎ UN population data, Save the Children extrapolated the estimated number of children under five considered to be at risk of hunger or starvation across all eleven countries.

“The first five years of a child’s life are critical. Without enough nutritious foo‎d to eat or the ability to absorb the right nutrients, children under five are at high risk of acute malnutrition which in turn can cause stunting, impede mental and physical development, increase risk of developing other illnesses and ultimately cause death,” the report said.

Save the Children called for an urgent and large-scale global response to help avert a humanitarian catastrophe, particularly devastating loss of lives among children, in the concerned countries. ‎

Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children, UK, Kevin Watkins, noted that global conflicts, chronic poverty and risks brought about by climate change contributed to the hunger crisis, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Watkins warned that the situation could reverse gains made in efforts to reduce child mortality. ‎

“Levels of acute hunger, which were already at record global highs before the pandemic, are continuing to rise. Left unchecked, this puts millions of children’s lives at risk. The global hu‎nger crisis is caused by a persistent lack of access to nutritious food in some of the most vulnerable communities in the world, and threatens to set countries back by years or even decades in their efforts to reduce child mortality and alleviate poverty. The situation is critical. We are looking at the very real possibility that thousands of children could die,” Watkins said.

  • Nine million people are facing ‘acute food shortage’ in northern Nigeria

In a related development, the Cadre Hamonise (CH) 2020 report on food security and nutrition analysis said the Boko Haram crisis, flood and climate change has led to ‘acute food shortage’ in northern Nigeria.

The report, published on the website of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations in November, said over nine million Nigerians in the northern states are facing acute food shortage. ‎

‎The report reveals that about 9.8 million people in Nigeria would be in a hunger crisis or worse between October and December 2020, and if immediate measures are not taken to mitigate the situation, about 13. 8 million people will be facing acute food shortage crisis between June and August 2021.

  • North East region worst hit 

The report also said the part of the country most affected by the acute food shortage is the North East region covering Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states. The states are affected by the decade-long Boko Haram armed insurgency, which has left millions of people without food and other means of livelihood.

The three states are classified to be in crisis and emergency phases of acute food shortage by the CH food security and nutrition analysis.

‎FAO Representative in Nigeria, Fred Kafeero, noted that the COVID-19 pandemic-induced lockdown and other restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the disease contributed to low food production in Nigeria in 2020.

Kafeero also‎ noted that there were challenges relating to access to markets and farm inputs.

“This is compounded by the insecurity in some parts of the country, crop pest and diseases infestation among others. Several households are still currently experiencing difficulties in assessing their basic food and non–food needs due to disrupted livelihoods resulting into reduced household income sources,” Kafeero added.‎

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The report observed that results from Cadre Harmonise (CH) analyses in Nigeria serve as an early warning system that is used in estimating the areas, and population of vulnerable people, in need of humanitarian assistance as presented in the annual Humanitarian Needs Overviews (HNOs) and the Humanitarian Response Plans (HRPs).

The CH analysis led by the Government of Nigeria, is facilitated through the National Programme for Food Security (NPFS) with financial and technical support from FAO, the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS), the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), European Union, the French Development Agency and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Other members of the technical committee include the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET), Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies (IFRC), Oxfam,  Administration for Children & Families (ACF) and Save the Children.

The states involved in the 2020 analysis are Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba and Yobe, as well as the Federal Capital Territory.

The findings did not include data from Zamfara State, which have not been finalised as of the time of presentation of the report.

The outcome from the CH analysis serves as an early warning alert to national and state governments as well as development partners including the humanitarian community on looming food insecurity and nutrition gaps faced in the states, and is used to galvanise support towards targeted actions.

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