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Famine threatens 1.5 million Nigerians in North-east



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  • agency seeks $274m to counter food shortages

By Odunewu Segun

About 1.5 million Nigerians are on the verge of starvation following acute famine and the dwindling supply of food by the United Nation World’s Food Programme in the North-Eastern part of Nigeria, National Daily has gathered.

Of the 4.7m people in the north-east considered by the UN to be facing food shortages and in need of assistance, many have not farmed, fished, traded or had other means to support themselves for several years.

The UN’s World Food Programme blames a funding shortfall for the deepening crisis, which comes at a crucial time. Seasonal rains due to begin this month are likely to make food deliveries impossible in many areas as dirt roads flood and become impassable.

The agency has already been forced to cut in half the quantities of vegetable oil and grains in the rations it provides because of the funding shortfall.

“We are trying to stave off famine. We haven’t been getting the financial resources necessary so we are trying to provide as much as we can,” said Douglas Mercado, the WFP’s deputy country director in Nigeria.

According to the UN’s World Food Programme, the environment is very fragile and time is quite limited in order to be fully prepared for the raining season even if the funds comes in today.

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These are very difficult choices.” The agency is asking donors for $274m to fund its Nigeria food effort until the end of October. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) said on Friday that it would give $30m in new funding. Some aid workers and UN officials in Nigeria argue that the humanitarian community and the government should have seen the emergency coming and planned ahead.

Zainab Ahmed, Nigeria’s deputy budget minister in charge of the government’s response, said Abuja was applying “a lot of resources”. She said $2.5bn was proposed in the 2017 national budget for federal and state spending in the north-east.

But, citing Nigeria’s recession, she said: “We’re handling several problems at the same time. Our resources are overstretched and we need help”. A year ago, the WFP was not delivering any food in the north-east of the country. Aid groups delivering its rations say the agency is plagued by logistical problems that often accompany such a quick scale-up.

The army has recaptured much of the territory the Islamist militants seized several years ago, but the group’s ability to launch hit-and-run style attacks means the 1.8m people living in camps and makeshift settlements across the region cannot return home safely.