Nigeria

Hunger War

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Nigeria’s population in conflict zones will face continued food insecurity till next year. The latest prediction is that nearly 17 million people will be at crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity in 2022. The report was released by the bi-annual Cadre Harmonise framework led by the Ministry of Agriculture. About 2.6 million people are displaced due to the 12 years of insurgency in the northeast and broader Lake Chad Basin. Ruthless banditry in the northwest has displaced at least 160,000 persons in Sokoto, Kaduna, Kebbi, Niger, Zamfara and Katsina states. Also, nearly 41,000 people have fled the zone to the Niger Republic. In addition, years of violence between farmers and herders have displaced about 300,000 people across the country.

Food crisis is a daily war for Nigerians facing humanitarian challenges. As a result of violent conflict and other disasters, about 8.7 million Nigerians require urgent humanitarian support. Thousands live in squalid conditions across displacement camps and face challenges such as inadequate meals, malnutrition, poor hygiene and sexual abuse. From the Cadre Harmonise Framework report, Borno state has the highest number of people facing food insecurity. The state also doubles as the state with the highest displacement population. Continued insurgency in the zone will keep the displaced and food insecure population up. Unaddressed food crises will deepen existing vulnerabilities and may predispose millions of people to criminality.

Ending food insecurity is a long and halting journey. Food insecurity will continue if human insecurity is not abated. Currently, multiple violent conflicts across the country are threatening lives and livelihoods. The unsafe environment affects the rural population, who make 90 per cent of Nigeria’s agricultural output, limiting access to farmlands and markets. This trend will continue to impact food production and hike the price of food items. At crossroads are Nigeria’s population on the edge of being food insecure or currently experiencing levels of humanitarian crisis. Much worse, the unabated tide of violence will make food availability difficult but not impossible to achieve.

The first reaction to solving Nigeria’s food insecurity will be to increase agricultural production. However, it is not a walk in the park considering rising violence and unmanaged climate action. For these reasons, efforts must be channelled towards tackling the proliferation of non-state armed groups that pose severe threats to farming communities and livelihoods. Other measures include genuine conversations to solve the farmer-herder conflict in Nigeria and tailored efforts to manage push factors of migration in the Lake Chad Basin. Conflict issues in Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin contributes to 54 per cent of the food crisis in Africa, according to the World Food Programme (WFP). Managing the escalation of violent conflict will help maintain unhindered access to farmlands and mitigate disruptions of agricultural activities.

There is a need to manage limited resources for the population in humanitarian zones. Despite the enormous gaps between available funds and targeted populations in humanitarian crises, other challenges exist. First, the management of internally displaced persons’ camps has been linked to corruption scandals. According to the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) report, “corruption is killing children in internally displaced person camps”. The study highlights accusations of relief materials diversion and reduction of IDPs’ rations by camp officials. Second, inadequate regulations within the camps make it difficult for relief services to reach the target population. An unannounced visit by the Governor of Borno state, Prof. (Engr.) Babagana Umara Zulum, on March 7 2021, led to the discovery of about 650 fake IDP households who pose as displaced persons to receive relief materials meant for IDPs. A robust resource management framework will help improve the impact of intervention programmes for people requiring humanitarian assistance.

Improving livelihood support in conflict zones will help to cushion the impact of violence and food insecurity. There is a need to increase livelihood programmes to ease the consequences of conflict on residents. An exponential increase in livelihood initiatives is a realistic and sustainable way of setting the tempo for post-conflict reconstruction, rebuilding lives and the local economy. It will also help sustain programmes responding to the humanitarian crisis and are keen on engendering self-reliance among the rural population. If not sustainably addressed, Nigeria’s food insecurity will be both a consequence of violence and an enabler of new conflicts.