The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has warned that it may soon be forced to cut food rations to more than half a million women, men and children in north-eastern Nigeria.
Chris Nikoi, WFP’s Regional Director for West Africa, said this in a statement on Saturday, in Abuja, following a recent visit to Nigeria.
He said that WFP would do this unless urgent funding was secured to continue life-saving operations in crisis-ridden Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.
The WFP director stated that the cuts would come just as severe hunger reached a five-year high in the country, in the wake of years of conflict and insecurity.
He said the situation had been worsened by the socio-economic fallout from COVID-19, high food prices and limited food supply.
He added that the number of internally-displaced surpassed two million in September 2021, reaching another grim milestone.
“Cutting rations means choosing who gets to eat and who goes to bed hungry. We are seeing funding for our life-saving humanitarian work dry up just at the time when hunger is at its most severe.”
Mr Nikoi warned that if at least US$ 55 million was not received in a matter of weeks, WFP would have no choice but to cut food rations and reduce the number of people it serves, where assistance is already prioritised for the most vulnerable as early as November.
“Our food assistance is a lifeline for millions whose lives have been upended by conflict and have almost nothing to survive on. We must act now to save lives and avoid disruptions to this lifeline,” Mr Nikoi added.
He said that the number of Internally Displaced People (IDP forced to flee their homes in search of safety in northeast Nigeria) had been rising steadily, reaching a new all-time high of over 2 million in September 2021.
The WFP director said that current food security analyses showed that 4.4 million people in North-east Nigeria did not know where their next meal would come from, and over 1 million children are already malnourished.
He cited continued attacks on communities by non-state armed groups, harsh lean season conditions amid an economy dealing with the fallout from the COVID-19, as portending great danger for the people.
Mr Nikoi added that high food prices and a severe reduction in household purchasing power, had also contributed to a bleak outlook for the most vulnerable people in northeast Nigeria.
He warned that despite increasing needs, WFP may soon be unable to sustain life-saving operations in the conflict-riddled north-east.
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