The number of people in need of food assistance in north-eastern Nigeria has nearly doubled to 4.5 million from March, according to a mid-August analysis by various agencies including the World Food Programme (WFP).
“All indications point to an extremely grave situation,” said Abdou Dieng, the UN agency’s Regional Director for West Africa, in a news release.
“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,” he added.
In the states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, the number of people “struggling with severe food insecurity,” or in an “emergency phase” requiring food assistance to survive, has risen fourfold since March to exceed one million, the analysis found. The Boko Haram-related insurgency in these states has caused population displacement, disruption in livelihoods, and acute food insecurity.
Moreover, it is estimated that at least 65,000 people in newly liberated but still inaccessible areas in Borno and Yobe are facing “famine-like” conditions.
The situation remains fluid, with more people uprooted in areas where fighting goes on. Some formerly displaced people are meanwhile returning to find their rural homes uninhabitable: forced to stay in urban areas, they are entirely reliant 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 – and then, only once a day.
A worsening economy could push up the number of people in need of food assistance in the country’s northeast by another million as early as next month. A separate food assessment by WFP has warned of soaring prices in areas affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.
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.
WFP requires $52 million to continue providing life-saving assistance until the end of the year in north-eastern Nigeria.
Mr. Dieng noted that tens of people have been killed or injured in Nigeria and in neighbouring Chad, Cameroon and Niger in the past days alone, an indication that Boko Haram violence is set to keep pushing more people into hunger and suffering.