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1 million Nigerians depend on food aid for survival, says ICRC

  • Beneficiaries are victims of Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorism in Northeast and banditry in Northwest
  • Laments increase in malnutrition rates among children

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Nigeria delegation on Friday said that one million Nigerians have received food and livelihood assistance from ICRC in the past nine months.

The ICRC said in a statement issued to commemorate the World Food Day, globally celebrated on October 16 that 80 per cent of those assisted with food and source of livelihood were from the Northeast while others were from Kaduna in the Northwest due to farmers herder crisis.

The Northeast is the hotbed of Boko Haram/Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) terrorism while the Northwest is the epicentre of herdsmen banditry.

According to the statement, the beneficiaries received the support between January and September, 2020.

It stated that 49,625 households received food rations (36,872 households), cash relief (7,252 households) and nutritious soya-corn blend (5,501 households).

“30, 769 households received seeds and tools; 11,501 households received cash to protect the seeds during the planting season.

“Thirty six herders benefited from the vet vaccination and 11,068 vet items were donated to the veterinary hospital in Maiduguri while 1,883 households participated in cash for livelihood activities and income generation programs.

“120 people with disabilities benefiting from the micro-economic initiative program in Kano. While 30, 111 households received essential household items to improve their living conditions.’’

Meanwhile, the statement stated there was an increase in food prices caused by COVID-19 fear, especially in the North East.

It stated that ICRC had seen an increase in malnutrition rates among children in nutrition centres it supports.

“The number of children treated by the outpatient nutrition programme grew by 20 per cent, while the number of severe malnutrition cases rose by 10 per cent, compared to the same period last year.

“The rise in the number of patients was registered despite the ICRC putting on hold its community outreach programme due to the pandemic.

“The outreach programme, implemented in collaboration with the Nigerian Red Cross Society, is its most efficient tool to identify malnourished children.’’

The statement quoted Thomas Ndambu, ICRC nutritionist, as saying “what we are seeing now is just the tip of an iceberg, and we are very concerned by the trend, especially in Maiduguri.

“I am certain that when Nigerian Red Cross volunteers resume their community outreach, the numbers will surge.”

According to the statement, the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic put additional strain on the vulnerable communities in the North-East of Nigeria.

It said the economic impact put additional strain on the vulnerable communities where the decade-long armed conflict is severely hampering agricultural production and self-sufficiency of local farmers.

The statement also quoted Ruth Muriungi, economic Security Programme coordinator for the ICRC, as saying, “ everywhere we work, the food prices have gone up, in some places they doubled.

“It means that millions of people in the North-East of Nigeria do not have enough to eat.’’

In addition, the statement said almost two million people in the North-East were currently displaced and do not have access to their agricultural land and production tools.

“In many areas of the Lake Chad region insecurity and movement restrictions have limited farmers ability to planting crops.

“Kano, Nigeria’s major seeds producer, was among the areas hit the hardest by the pandemic during the planting season, which affected seed processing and transportation.

“As a result, many farmers could not obtain seeds or received them too late.

“The ICRC, one of the major contributors to the agricultural sector in the North-East, managed to obtain less than 60 per cent of the seeds it was originally planning to distribute to vulnerable communities.

“With Nigeria depending on food import for a tenth of its food needs, border closures and restrictions on movement during spring and summer months have also affected the availability of food in the markets,’’ it stated.

It further said that extreme weather was another factor influencing food production in Nigeria, citing Adamawa.

“For example, Adamawa has experienced dry spells at the beginning of the agricultural season, which is expected to have a negative impact on the production of maize in the area,’’ it said

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