The United Nations says no fewer than 4.4 million people may suffer acute hunger in North-East Nigeria due to attacks by the Boko Haram militant group that have forced farmers from their land.
The United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Edward Kallon, raised an alarm of the looming food crisis in the region at the three-day 20th meeting of the Joint Planning Board (JPB) and National Council on Development Planning held at Government House, Maiduguri, on Wednesday.
The UN Coordinator, who was represented by Esty Sutyok at the summit, said:
“This is happening against the backdrop of a combination of escalating conflict, displacement and loss of livelihoods from Coronavirus Disease.”
The summit had the theme ‘Managing Nigerian Economy for a Sustainable Development in a Challenging Environment’.
Kallon noted that work was in progress to “alleviate suffering and save lives of people affected by a dozen years of conflict.”
He added that the alleviation of sufferings would be ‘comprehensive and sustainable’ to restore destroyed livelihoods
A recent analysis by the UN agency World Food Programme shows 41 million people in 43 countries – including Nigeria – are teetering on the brink of famine, up from 27 million two years ago.
WFP Executive Director, David Beasley, in a statement in June, described the situation as “just tragic”, as “these are real people with real names.”
He said, “I am heartbroken at what we’re facing in 2021. We now have four countries where famine-like conditions are present.”
There are 584,000 people experiencing conditions similar to famine in Ethiopia, Madagascar, South Sudan and Yemen, according to the World Food Programme.
Nigeria and Burkina Faso are also of particular concern since there are pockets of famine-like conditions in both countries.
Beasley said 260,000 people died of hunger in Somalia in 2011 – and by the time the famine was actually declared – half of that number had already died.
“We can’t debate the numbers to death when people need our help now”, he concluded.