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Food Initiative: UN’s nutrition support targets 7.3m consumers in Nigeria, 7 other African countries

Photo: Newsweek

*The United Nations’ World Food Programme discloses the food and nutrition assistance programme for June-August 2024 supports national governments’ lean season response plans, targeting 7.3 million consumers in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Nigeria

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

Against the backdrop of the reported spreading hunger, shortages of food items, and soaring prices of nutrition items, and other commodities across the continent, the United Nations’ (UN) World Food Programme (WFP) has announced plans to support Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, and four other West and Central African countries with food

ConsumerConnect reports the UN food agency, which disclosed this development in a statement posted on its corporate Web site Tuesday, June 19, 2024, listed Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Niger as the beneficiaries of the food initiative.

It is recalled Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in its latest data disclosed the West African country’s headline inflation rate increased to 33.95 percent May 2024.

According to the NBS Consumer Price Index (CPI) report released June 15 this year, the figure represents an increase of 0.26 percent points, compared to the April 2024 headline inflation rate.

The Bureau, in the latest data, also indicated that on a year-on-year basis, the headline inflation rate was 11.54 percent points higher, compared to the 22.41 percent rate recorded May 2023.

Lifesaving food and nutrition assistance targets 7.3m consumers in West, Central Africa: WFP

The WFP stated: “We are ramping up our lifesaving food and nutrition assistance programme in West and Central Africa, targeting 7.3 million people during the ongoing June-August lean season when food stocks run out and hunger peaks.

“The programme which kicks off in June, supports national governments’ lean season response plans in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Nigeria.”

The UN food agency also said: “The number of people World Food Programme will target as part of the programme could expand to 12 million people if adequate funding allows.

“But dwindling resources available for humanitarian operations means that despite near-record level needs, WFP has been forced to assist less people than originally planned.”

The statement further noted: “West and Central Africa is in the grips of a severe food security and nutrition crisis – with nearly 55 million people projected to face acute hunger during the June-August lean season – a fourfold increase on the 12.6 million people facing acute hunger in 2019. Malnutrition has also reached extraordinary levels, with an estimated 17 million acutely malnourished children under five.”

Commenting on the food initiative for select African countries, Chris Nikoi, Regional Director for Western Africa at WFP, in the statement asserted: “The alarming hunger crisis in the region underscores the urgent need for transformative solutions to help vulnerable families meet not only their immediate food needs but also build a brighter future.

“We need to continue prioritising emergency response for those most in need. But we need more investment in sustainable solutions to help strengthen food security, improve agricultural productivity, purchasing power of families at the right time, and cushioning economic and climate shocks.”

Nikoi said: “The hunger and nutrition crisis in West and Central Africa is driven by the intertwined impacts of conflicts, high food prices, and the impacts of the climate crisis. “Economic shocks linked to market disruptions, high inflation and weakened economic activities, depreciating national currencies and increasing costs of fuel and agricultural inputs have inflicted a significant toll on people – particularly in Nigeria, Ghana, and Sierra Leone.”

Objectives of WFP’s June-August lean season response, by Nikoi

The Regional Director for Western Africa also stated: “WFP’s lean season response aims to meet the immediate food and nutrition needs of those most exposed to acute hunger – including refugees, the most vulnerable displaced people, severely food insecure people, and people in blockaded areas adversely impacted by climatic, economic and security crises.

“While the crises continue to increase in magnitude, frequency, and complexity in the region, funding to respond has not kept apace – leaving even some of those facing the most acute needs without assistance.

“As a result, millions of food insecure families are left without assistance, and at risk of sliding further into the most severe levels of hunger next year.”

Nikoi said: “This is especially worrying as the 2024 seasonal forecasts paint a grim picture of both dry spells and floods in parts of the region, potentially disrupting farming and livestock productivity, prolonging the next lean season, and exacerbating the vulnerability of hard-hit communities,” the statement warned.

“The escalation of humanitarian needs far outstrips available resources. The only way out of this cycle is to prioritise as well durable solutions.”

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