Continued Conflict Threatens Population's Access to Food in Nigeria

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The Nigerian Minister of Health has declared a "nutrition emergency" in northeast Nigeria as conflict continues to limit access to food, water, and health services, according to an alert from FEWS Net. 

Conflict between the Nigerian Armed Forces and the group Boko Haram has been ongoing since 2012, with fighting concentrated in the northeast region and around Lake Chad, particularly in Borno State. The conflict has had significant impact on livelihoods, markets, and humanitarian responses in the region and has severely limited access to food for both resident populations and displaced populations. The declining value of the Nigerian Naira has further complicated the situation, creating high staple food prices even in areas where households have better market access.  

In March 2016, the Cadre Harmonisé (the food security classification protocol used in West Africa, similar to and in line with the globally accepted Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC)) estimated that more than 3 million people were in Crisis (Phase 3)-level food insecurity or higher and needed urgent humanitarian aid. Five rapid assessment missions conducted by the Government of Nigeria, WFP, IOM, joint UN, and MSF in June in the town of Bama, which is currently home to a large population of displaced people, confirmed visible malnutrition among both adults and children, extremely scarce food and water, very limited health services, and a lack of functioning markets. High mortality levels, primarily from malnutrition and diarrhea, were also found in the area.

Although information from northeast Nigeria is limited and not statistically representative, the report says that available evidence and the fact that many of the worst affected areas are unreachable by humanitarian aid workers suggests that the region is now in Emergency (Phase 4)-level food insecurity, and that Famine (Phase 5)-level conditions may exist in the worst affected areas. Thus, humanitarian aid for both resident populations and displaced populations should be ramped up, particularly for the provision of food, health and nutrition services, and WASH assistance. Livelihood assistance will also be required to help populations rebuild and regain market access. Finally, the situation requires continued collection of food security-, nutrition-, and mortality-related data in order for national and global olicymakers to understand the extent and severity of food insecurity in the country.

By: Sara Gustafson

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