The World Bank Group is set to mobilise immediate response for people threatened by famine in Nigeria and five other countries.
World Bank Group President, Jim Yong Kim, who made this known in a statement posted on the organisation’s website on Wednesday, said the five other countries are Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen.
The Nigerian government had earlier denied that there was any prospect of famine across the country, but indicated the Boko Haram-raved north-eastern Nigeria could be affected.
Mr. Kim, who noted that the World bank’s first priority was to work with partners to make sure that families have access to food and water, disclosed that millions of lives are at risk and will die if
nothing is done quickly to put the crisis under control.
“Famine is a stain on our collective conscience. Millions of lives are at risk and more will die if we do not act quickly and decisively,” the World Bank boss noted.
He revealed that the World Bank is working towards a financial package of more than $1.6 billion to build social protection systems, strengthen community resilience, and maintain service delivery to the most vulnerable.
This, according to him, includes existing operations of over $870 million that will help communities threatened by famine.
“I am also working with our Board of Directors to secure the approval of new operations amounting to $770 million, funded substantially through IDA’s Crisis Response Window,” he added.
The World Bank boss, however, said that the international community must recognise that famine will have lasting impacts on people’s health, ability to learn and earn a living, adding that the
organisation will continue to work with communities to reclaim their livelihoods and build resilience to future shocks.
“We are coordinating closely with the UN and other partners in all areas of our response,” he said.
“We know that resolution to this acute crisis will not be possible without all humanitarian and development actors working together.
“We call on the international community to respond robustly and quickly to the UN global appeal for resources for the famine.
“To prevent crises in the future, we must invest in addressing the root causes and drivers of fragility today and help countries build institutional and societal resilience.”
In January, a report by the Famine Early Warning System Network, FEWS NET, an agency supported by the United States Agency for International Development, USAID, had said that due to persistent conflict, severe drought and economic instability, Nigeria and three other countries faced a credible risk of famine in 2017.
The report had noted that the Boko Haram crisis continues to contribute to large scale population displacement, limit market activity, and restrict normal livelihoods, especially in north-east Nigeria.
The report came two months after the presidency warned Nigerians of a likelihood of famine if the excess export of Nigerian grains was not checked.
”Huge demand for our grains in the global market is creating an excellent environment for the mindless export of Nigerian food across our borders and unless this is curtailed, Nigerian markets will be bereft of grains by January next year,” presidential spokesperson Garba Shehu had said in November 2016.
In February, famine hit a part of South Sudan, marking the first announcement of its kind since 2011.
Yemen, northern Nigeria and Somalia are also on the brink of famine, analysts said.