NEW YORK, United States of America, May 24, 2016/APO (African Press Organization)/ —
Under the Government of Nigeria’s leadership, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is scaling up to assist 430,000 people in Northeast Nigeria where Boko Haram violence has led to one of the most acute and largely forgotten humanitarian crises in the world.
“As areas become more accessible and we collectively develop a more refined understanding of what people need, WFP is working with the Government and other agencies such as UNICEF to urgently reach the most vulnerable,” said WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin.
“We are working in a highly complex environment. It is a race against time as the lean and rainy season is upon us. We know that unless we act fast, and we act now, hunger will only deepen in the months to come,” she added at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul.
“With diminished harvests caused by the devastating effects of drought and halted crop production in most farming districts, food supplies are terribly low. We face various constraints as we make provision for our dwindling food reserves,” said the Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima.
Recent joint government and UN assessments show that in the worst-affected areas factors –
such as poor sanitation, a prevalence of disease and people lacking access to food, water and healthcare – are converging and could create a famine-like situation if assistance is not urgently provided.
Some 2.5 million people face hunger in northeastern Nigeria. More than 800,000 people are in urgent need of food assistance in Borno and Yobe states.
WFP will give food or cash-based assistance to 431,000 people, including specialized nutritious food to 64,000 children under the age of two at risk of malnutrition in Borno and Yobe, which are the states worst-affected by violence. This will complement efforts led by the Government and other partners to provide humanitarian assistance to all those in need.
“We are now working at full capacity to address the immensity of needs and hope our collaborations with WFP and other partners will ensure an end to the severe food insecurity at hand. In addition to the mobilization of consolidated financial support to address current requirements, there is also a dire need for sustained development strategies in order to adequately end needs,” Shettima said.
The most vulnerable in northeastern Nigeria will continue to need assistance because they have been cut off from their fields for three consecutive years, and it is likely that this year’s food production will again be disrupted.
According to WFP market assessments, staple food prices in some areas in Borno state have increased by 50-100 percent since the start of the year, and markets are limited because of insecurity and trade restrictions due to the conflict.
Pockets of the Northeast are inaccessible for deliveries of humanitarian assistance due to insecurity. There is very little data available on the condition of people in cut-off areas.
“With the Government and other partners, WFP is doing all it can to gather data so there is a better understanding of needs. We are expanding coverage of mobile-phone based surveys to 6,000 households, and are analyzing satellite imagery so we can understand better how families are coping and can prioritize areas to receive assistance without delay,” Cousin said.
In places in Borno and Yobe states where markets are still functioning, WFP aims to provide cash-based assistance to 267,000 people over a period of six months so that they can buy food. This initiative will also help strengthen local economies.
WFP began providing cash by mobile phones to displaced people and host communities in March in the Maiduguri area. To date, over 20,000 people have received cash assistance in Borno and Yobe. Another 17,600 people are registered and will be assisted in the coming days.
WFP will provide in-kind food assistance to 150,000 people in areas where markets are not functioning. The food basket meets the requirements for a nutritionally balanced diet.
To respond to urgent needs, WFP has distributed since the end of April highly nutritious ready-to-use food to 6,300 children under two at-risk of malnutrition in Maiduguri. To date, 20 metric tons–enough for 14,500 children–has been sent to 14 sites for displaced people in Borno state.
For mobile-phone based assistance, an IDP registration and information platform called SCOPE developed by WFP has been installed with the Government and the International Organization of Migration to help provide both food and other vital support and services, such as nutrition screening of pregnant and nursing mothers and children under five.
With the Government, UNICEF and partners, WFP will carry out nutrition screening and help protect children against malnutrition in parallel with cash and food distributions.
A WFP-managed UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) flies humanitarian workers to and across northeastern Nigeria. Since August 2015, UNHAS transported some 4,400 passengers from 54 humanitarian organizations, and about 20 metric tons of humanitarian cargo.
WFP has supported national and state emergency agencies and humanitarian partners to help people displaced by the conflict with Boko Haram in Nigeria since May 2015, and is increasing its assistance at the request of the Government in response to the growing needs.
WFP requires US$21 million for its operations in the Northeast in 2016. To date, US$3.7 million has been given by Canada, the European Union, United Kingdom and United States.