“Looming catastrophic food insecurity in Nigeria could eventually result in a famine”, warns UN Country Office
The UN Country Representative in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, warned today that the country is currently at a crossroad to a critical food insecurity which could result in famine should appropriate action not be taken now while asking urgently the international community for USD 250 million to avert the worse.
Speaking to reporters at a briefing at the United Nations in Geneva, Edward Kallon, United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria, said that “we are here on a very somber mission, a somber mission in the sense that we are seeing Nigeria at a cross-road to critical food insecure situation and a looming catastrophic food insecurity that could eventually result in a famine, if appropriate actions are not taken now”.
Mr. Kallon added that “we need critically USD 250 million dollars to respond to the acute food insecurity needs of 4,4 million people of which some 705, 000 are at a critical threshold of death if nothing is done now”.
Based on a latest study by the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and partners, an estimated 4,4 million people are urgently in need of humanitarian assistance in north-east Nigeria, Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states. One of the biggest challenges is getting access to the people in need.
“There are still well over 800, 000 people in inaccessible areas that we cannot access as international humanitarian partners although some of those areas are reachable by the government itself”, reports Mr. Kallon. “So, indeed, we can see the need for a division of responsibility in those areas. What’s critical to the response is going to be the need for freedom of movement of people to come from those enclaves to areas where we can have access to”.
According to Edward Kallon, the malnutrition rates are very worrisome as they have further increased since October 2020 till today.
The socio-economic impact of Covid-19 led to a destruction of livelihoods. The country is extremely worried about the new virus variants of the pandemic and the work of the humanitarian workers has been restricted due to Covid-19.
“This situation has even deteriorated further as a result of 1) limited access, constraints imposed by Covid-19 and also the lack of resources. My call on the international community is to come to our aid now to make sure that we avert a famine”.
The ongoing security concerns resulted in a further displacement of the population, according to Mr. Kallon. “As we are witnessing now as a result of banditry, criminality, and elements of terrorism, we are also seeing high levels of displacement in north-west Nigeria where an estimated 1,4 million people also need immediate humanitarian assistance. And, also in north-central Nigeria where over 1 million people also need assistance”.
The top UN official for Nigeria emphasizes that the response mechanisms are in place and colleagues are working closely with government to gain access in hard to reach areas.
“Security remains a major concern in our operation and at best the security situation in the operation areas remain fluid, volatile and unpredictable”, said Mr. Kallon. “Access remains a concern to us, but we are also very hopeful and working collectively to ensure that the response is localized, and we are using local support to make sure that affected population are reached”.
Edward Kallon reminded that in a similar situation in 2017 a famine was averted through the help of the international community.