World Food Day: Continuing Crisis Leading Nigerians To Starvation
Although violent conflict is more pronounced in the country’s Northeast and some parts of the Northwest, North-central, and the Southeast, the entire nation is at risk of experiencing starvation.
As the global community celebrates the United Nations’ World Food Day event, Nigerians continue to be exposed to increasing starvation across different parts of the country due to rising insecurity of lives and properties.
World Food Day is an international day celebrated on Oct. 16. It is recognised to commemorate the founding of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (UN FAO) in 1945.
But this year’s celebration has not met many Nigerians in a good position.
Bako Felicia, a farmer displaced by killer herders in Benue State, North-central Nigeria, told HumAngle about the calamity she has been forced into.
Before she was displaced, she made profit from trading maize, rice, and yams. The profits from her produce used to last her and her five children almost a year. But currently, donated food items as displaced persons barely last them a week.
“I sold a set of three tubers of yam for N500 to traders, but sometimes we (farmers) increase the price based on the cost of harvest. Bags of rice and maize were also sold to small scale food processors,” she said.
When asked if she would go back to farming, she said, “I cannot go back to the farm, unless the herders have stopped coming entirely. I have children that are hungry and sometimes I feel like going back but I may not survive the next time they strike.”
Felicia is just one of many farmers whose farmlands or communities are being attacked and razed, leaving them with nowhere to go.
According to a Famine Early Warning Signs Network (FEWS NET) report, displacements, military operations, and of recent, telecommunication blackouts have worsened harvest outcomes.
The crisis signaling platform disclosed that currently, crisis outcomes are ongoing in the worst-affected areas. It also explained how households most affected are likely to experience emergency or catastrophe until harvests are fully successful.
FEWS NET also stated that overall, the national harvest is expected to be below average due to conflict, amongst other factors.
Women and children face dire conditions in IDP camps
In times of crisis, including devastating repercussions of climate change and economic instability, the displaced are pushed into extreme situations of food insecurity.
In Borno, Northeast Nigeria, only 10 households out of 250 in Dalori II Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camp have access to relief materials, while those who are not lucky enough to obtain these food items survive by engaging in ‘immoral’ practices.
According to the World Food Program’s (WFP) situation report, 4.4 million people in the Northeast have become food insecure, up from pre-COVID-19 figures of 3.7 million, of which a huge percentage are women and children in IDP camps. Despite these grim statistics, Yakura Kumshe and Hadiza Aliyu, women in Dalori II camp, have claimed that camp officials do selective treatment.
In their account, Hadiza and Yakura explained that when officials come to link their food e-vouchers with their SIM cards, women without husbands are often sidelined. This has made single mothers and children to endure hunger pangs.
A HumAngle feature earlier this year narrated how girls like Aisha and Fatima are being shuffled around by camp officials and soldiers for sexual pleasures for N1500. “Since we did not have money to bribe, we were told to use what we have, which is as good as money,” Aisha narrated in Kanuri.
Older women who are too ‘feeble’ to offer such pleasure, act as pimps for their daughters or orphaned girls under their care to whoever can give them staple items.
Asides that, others who remain determined to protect their dignity comb through busy streets and highways to beg for alms. This is the story of women like Maryam who leave their shelters as early as 6 a.m. daily to beg in the streets and return home late at night.
Maryam explained how she treks for more than 10 km to the city centre to beg for alms so she could feed her large family.
“I become desperate as nighttime approaches because I have promised the 11 children under my care that I would return home with food for them to eat,” she said.
Realities ‘outside’ conflict zones
A trader whom others address as ‘Sister Rose’ sitting behind heaps of rice, beans, and cassava flour in Yar kasuwa market in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, talked about the spike in food prices within a year.
“Before, a mudu (unit) of local rice was N500/N600, now it is N1000. At the beginning of the year, mudu of garri (cassava flour) was N400, now it is N600. A tin of beans was N80 but now from N150 to N200. Sometimes it is even full of weevils.”
Data gathered by National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) shows the Consumer Price Index, (CPI) which measures inflation, increased by 16.63 percent (year-on-year) in Sept. 2021.
The findings also showed an increase in Urban Inflation rate by 17.19 percent (year-on-year) in Sept. 2021, while the Rural Inflation rate increased by 16.08 percent in Sept. 2021.
While some households can adapt comfortably to the pivotal increase in staples, majority are forced to adjust their daily food intake and whittle away the idea of a “balanced diet.”
The unpleasant thrums of food shortages and malnutrition may be felt more in some regions than other areas across Nigeria. However, contributing factors create a vicious interconnected web that may pose serious dangers for the nation’s entire population.