According to the 2019 Global Report on Food Crises (GRFC), the number of people unable to meet their daily food needs without humanitarian assistance has been rising for several years.

Data pooled from 15 agencies in the international humanitarian and development community showed that Nigeria, northern Nigeria to be specific, was one of the eight countries that housed two-thirds of the 113 million people who faced acute hunger across the globe in 2018.

"The worst food crises in 2018, in order of severity, were: Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Sudan, South Sudan and northern Nigeria.

"These eight countries accounted for two thirds of the total number of people facing acute food insecurity - amounting to nearly 72 million people," the report read.

A short-term outlook of food insecurity for 2019 also showed that Nigeria will remain among the world's most severe cases of food crises, same as the other seven currently affected.

"Large segments of populations in most of these countries risk falling into Emergency (IPC/CH Phase 4) levels of acute food insecurity," the report read.

The report noted that these food crises across the world in 2018 were primarily driven by persistent instability in conflict-ridden regions and adverse climate events. 

The report disclosed that the crisis in Nigeria affected 16 northern states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) with 5.3 million people estimated to be "in crisis or worse".

"At the peak of the lean season, three million were acutely food insecure in the three north-eastern states affected by the Boko Haram insurgency where protracted conflict and mass displacement disrupted agriculture, trade, markets and livelihoods, and pushed up food prices," the report disclosed.

Those worst-hit were identified to be three million people resident in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, northeastern states that have bore the brunt of a 10-year insurgency by terrorist group, Boko Haram. The group has killed around 30,000 people and displaced more than 2.5 million.

Hunger is a recurrent problem for those living in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in the northeast [Guardian]
Hunger is a recurrent problem for those living in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in the northeast [Guardian]

One of the factors identified for driving acute food insecurity in those states was intensified attacks on military checkpoints, worship centres and civilians which increased displacement as the country was hosting two million people in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in October 2018.

Military operations and checkpoints were also noted to have disrupted agricultural production as well as markets and other livelihood activities. 

The report read, "While four households in five had access to farmland in Yobe and two in three in Adamawa, almost half of them were not able to cultivate. In Borno, two households in three had no access to farmland.

"In Adamawa, floods and conflicts between pastoralists and farmers also weakened household food security."

Despite the damaging figures for Nigeria, the report also noted that the country experienced a 40% decrease of people in crisis and emergency between 2017 and 2018, one of the most significant decreases in the world alongside Bangladesh, Cameroon, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.

"For Nigeria, the improvement could be attributed to provision of humanitarian food assistance and better harvest," the report noted.

Food availability reportedly improved in late 2018 in the northeast as a result of better security conditions and access to land, favourable agro-climatic conditions, gradual recovery of markets, and restoration of livelihoods following continuous provision of assistance.

However, conflict is expected to persist in the country and continue to have a direct impact on agricultural production and on the functioning of markets.

This means large numbers of poor and/or displaced households in the northeast are expected to continue to remain heavily dependent on humanitarian assistance.

Women wait with their children under a shed for food rations at an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp on the outskirts of Maiduguri, Borno on June 6, 2017 [AFP]
Women wait with their children under a shed for food rations at an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp on the outskirts of Maiduguri, Borno on June 6, 2017 [AFP]

Despite admitting how critical providing humanitarian assistance is to saving lives and alleviating human suffering, the World Food Programme (WFP) executive director, David Beasley, said it will not address the root causes of food crises.

To achieve a resilient, stable and hunger-free world, the report noted that conflicts must be ended, women must be empowered, children nourished and educated, rural infrastructure must be improved and social safety nets must be reinforced.