A sad picture of the hunger and malnutrition in the three north-eastern states of Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa has been painted by the United Nations, leaving a sour taste in the mouth for a country so well-endowed, but ravaged by insecurity, bad governance, and effect of natural disasters.
According to United Nations’ Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria, Matthias Schmale, 4.3 million people in Nigeria’s Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states are affected by severe hunger.
But there are fears in other quarters that the figure could more than double if other troubled states in the north-west and central are included, because of the insecurity in many states like Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara, Niger, and Plateau. In some of the states, the activities of bandits and terrorists have kept many rural folks from large swaths of farmland.
Worse, the UN official added, of the $1.3 billion in humanitarian funding needed for the region, only 25 per cent has been secured so far.
In a report, the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) said the UN chief told journalists in Geneva on Wednesday that the number of children under five at risk of life-threatening severe acute malnutrition had doubled in one year to reach 700,000.
Describing the situation in northeast Nigeria, Schmale said: “I have been to Borno and the other two states several times.
“I’ve seen mothers fighting for lives of their malnourished children in nutrition stabilisation centres.
“Those of us who are parents must imagine what it’s like when you cannot ensure your children have enough to eat,” he said.
According to him, the “catastrophic” situation is primarily the result of more than a decade of insecurity linked to non-state armed groups, which prevents people from farming and earning income from the land.
Another harmful factor is climate change and extreme weather impacts.
Last year saw the worst floods in 10 years in Nigeria, which affected more than 4.4 million people across the country, not just the north-east.
Soaring prices of food, fuel and fertilisers have exacerbated the crisis, and the response remains severely underfunded.