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COVID-19: ICRC Decries Pervasive Hunger in North East Nigeria

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(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has bemoaned the economic impact of COVID-19 pandemic, saying that it has aggravated the spate of hunger in the North-East region of Nigeria.

The ICRC said COVID-19 has placed an additional strain on the vulnerable communities in the region, where the decade-long armed conflict is severely hampering agricultural production and self-sufficiency of local farmers.

Meanwhile, almost two million people in the North-East are currently displaced and do not have access to their agricultural land and production tools. In many areas of the Lake Chad region, insecurity and movement restrictions have limited farmers ability to plant crops.

Kano, Nigeria’s major seeds producer, was among the areas hit the hardest by the pandemic during the planting season, which affected seed processing and transportation. As a result, many farmers could not obtain seeds or received them too late.

The ICRC is one of the major contributors to the agricultural sector in the region, managed to obtain less than 60 percent of the seeds it was originally planning to distribute to vulnerable communities.

Between January and September 2020, one million people received food and livelihood assistance from the ICRC. The activities were carried out in close collaboration with the Nigerian Red Cross Society (NRCS).

The Economic Security Programmes Coordinator for the ICRC, Ruth Mwakiuna Muriungi said the situation is similar across different states in the North-East geopolitical zone, adding that prices of food items have gone up.

“Everywhere we work the food prices have gone up, in some places they doubled. It means that millions of people in the North-East of Nigeria do not have enough to eat”, she said.

In addition, the ICRC also noted that there is an increase in malnutrition rates among children in nutrition centres it supports in Nigeria, adding that the number of children treated by the outpatient nutrition programme grew by 20 percent, while the number of severe malnutrition cases rose by 10 percent, compared to the same period last year.

The rise in the number of patients, according to the international humanitarian organization, was registered despite it putting on hold its community outreach programme due to the pandemic. The outreach programme implemented in collaboration with the NRCS, is its most efficient tool to identify malnourished children.

While lending credence to this ugly development, ICRC Nutritionist, Thomas Ndamb said: “What we are seeing now is just the tip of an iceberg, and we are very concerned by the trend, especially in Maiduguri. I am certain that when Nigerian Red Cross volunteers resume their community outreach, the numbers will surge”.

Moreover, with Nigeria depending on food import for a tenth of its food needs, border closures and restrictions on movement during spring and summer months have also affected the availability of food in the markets.

Extreme weather is another factor influencing food production in Nigeria. For example, Adamawa State has experienced dry spells at the beginning of the agricultural season, which is expected to have a negative impact on the production of maize in the area.


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