Hunger Hotspots: Nigeria

Serah, seven-years-old, one of the internally displaced persons living in Rann, Borno State, Nigeria. UNOCHA/Yasmina Guerda

The Current Situation:

An estimated 4.14 million people are acutely food insecure and in need of humanitarian assistance in northern Nigeria. They are largely concentrated in the country’s northeast.  

About 1.1 million children are acutely malnourished.

The number of displaced people is on the rise, with the most recent UNHCR report putting the figure at 3.2 million in January 2022. In addition, there are nearly 80,000 refugees.

According to humanitarian aid officials, the period of greatest need in 2022 will be June through September, the “lean season,” when food grown the previous year has run out, but the new crops are not yet ready.

Some areas of the northeast are virtually inaccessible to humanitarian workers. People in these areas are on the verge of famine, relying mainly on wild foods. Smaller groups are believed to already be living in famine conditions.  

As in the rest of West Africa, food prices, transportation costs, and inflation are high, while household ability to purchase is low. For example, in January 2022, the price of maize—a staple food for many households living in poverty—in the Nigerian state of Kano were 27 percent higher than last year and 65 percent above the longer-term average price.

The Humanitarian Response:

During 2022, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) plans to assist 1.77 million people in a $55 million relief effort.

As of May 2022, only about 9 percent of the humanitarian request for Nigeria had been filled.

Displaced people and refugees need ongoing assistance since they do not have access to their homes and fields.

Another focus, for people who have been able to remain or return home, will be on enabling rural families to return to farming and/or keeping livestock. These investments support household efforts to produce enough nutritious food for themselves.

The Causes:

Conflict. Nigeria’s hunger crisis is driven by ongoing conflict among the government, the insurgency group Boko Haram, and a splinter group of Boko Haram.  Conflict is preventing people from tending livestock, growing crops, and doing other work to make food available to their communities and earn enough to support their families.

Climate change. Northern Nigeria has become increasingly vulnerable to climate change.  Growing seasons are shorter, there are more floods and droughts, and new pests and diseases reduce harvests.   

Displacement due to conflict and climate change.

Economic downturns, due partly to structural problems in local economies that have been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Context:

Nigeria, an economic anchor in West Africa, is a large country of about 215 million people, making it the most populous African nation. The population continues to grow steadily. 

Nigerian politics have been complicated by competition for control of the country’s oil reserves, located mainly in the southeast. Waves of violence, including a full-blown separatist war in the 1960s, have made oil more a resource curse than an economic benefit. 

The conflict in the north has affected 15 million people in all. The rationale for the war is often simply called “violent extremism.” Boko Haram, a well-known insurgency group using terror tactics, is based in Nigeria but also operates in the neighboring countries of Chad, Niger, and Cameroon.

Bread for the World’s Connection to Hunger Hotspots:

Bread’s ongoing advocacy for robust humanitarian food and nutrition assistance is essential to an effective response to the hunger crisis in Nigeria. Bread for the World members are longtime faithful advocates for people in hunger emergencies and have already helped to win additional humanitarian funding for 2022. This is part of Bread’s efforts to persuade Congress to allocate funds that save lives, prevent irreparable harm from early childhood malnutrition, and ease suffering. Bread members also champion U.S. development assistance, which helps prevent hunger emergencies by enabling and equipping people to build resilient communities.

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