By Henry Uche, Lagos
A recent report released by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) has warned that acute hunger is set to soar in Nigeria and 20 other countries in the coming months of 2021 owing to conflicts or other forms of violence which shall leave affected countries in dire economic shock.
Speaking about the impending ugly situation in a joint statement released by both UN’s organisations, FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu said: ‘The magnitude of suffering at the moment is alarming. It is incumbent upon all of us to act now and fast to save lives, safeguard livelihoods and prevent the worst situation.’
He noted that in many regions, the planting season has just started or was about to start, urging: ‘We must run ahead of the clock and cease this opportunity to protect, stabilize and even possibly increase local food production slip away.’
On his part, WFP Executive Director David Beasley said: ‘We are seeing a catastrophe unfold before our very eyes. Famine – driven by conflict, fuelled by climate shocks and the COVID-19 hunger pandemic – is knocking on the door for millions of families.
‘We urgently need three things to stop millions from dying of starvation: the fighting has to stop, we must be allowed access to vulnerable communities to provide life-saving help, and above all we need donors to step up with the US$ 5.5 billion we are asking for this year,’ he added.
The report noted that ‘in conflict-hit northern Nigeria, projections for the June – August lean season shows that the number of people in emergency level of acute food insecurity is likely to almost double – to over 1.2 million, Since the same period last year- In the next six months, food and nutrition insecurity is set to rise considerably in northern Nigeria with some 13 million people affected unless food and livelihood assistance is scaled up.’
The report recommends critical short-term actions in each hunger hotspot to address existing and future needs.
‘These ranges from scaling up food and nutrition assistance, distributing drought-tolerant seeds, treating and vaccinating livestock to rolling out cash-for-work schemes, rehabilitating water- harvesting structures and increasing income opportunities for vulnerable communities.’
According to the report, the following factors are behind the projected rise in acute food insecurity in the 20 hunger ‘hotspots’ between March and July 2021.
‘Conflict or other forms of violence may protract or is likely to increase in parts of Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Central Sahel, Ethiopia, northern Nigeria, northern Mozambique, Somalia, South Sudan and the Sudan. Increasingly constrained access in some countries to help people in need has been making things worse.
‘COVID-19 will continue to impact numerous countries around the world, leaving them highly vulnerable to economic shocks. Latin America is the region hardest hit by economic decline and will be the slowest to recover. In the Middle East, Yemen, Syria and Lebanon are seriously affected by a rapid currency depreciation and skyrocketing inflation.
‘Climate extremes and la Niña-driven weather will likely continue in April and May, driving hunger in several parts of the world – from Afghanistan, Madagascar to the Horn of Africa. Desert Locust outbreaks in East Africa and on the Red Sea Coast remains a concern. In Southern Africa, in parts of Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, African migratory locusts threaten to ravage the summer crops,’ the report stated.