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UN WFP to aid Nigeria and seven other West/Central African nations with food amidst growing hunger crisis

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The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has unveiled plans to provide critical food assistance to Nigeria and seven other West and Central African countries as the region grapples with escalating hunger, food shortages, and soaring prices.

The beneficiaries of this initiative include Nigeria, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, and Niger.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the WFP announced that it is intensifying its lifesaving food and nutrition assistance programme, aiming to reach 7.3 million people during the current June-August lean season. This period is marked by depleted food stocks and peak hunger.

The programme will support the national governments’ lean season response plans across the targeted countries.

The statement highlighted the potential for expanding the initiative to cover up to 12 million people, contingent on adequate funding. However, due to limited resources, the WFP has been forced to scale down its assistance despite the near-record level of needs.

West and Central Africa are experiencing a severe food security and nutrition crisis, with nearly 55 million people expected to face acute hunger during the lean season.

This figure represents a fourfold increase compared to the 12.6 million people who faced acute hunger in 2019. Malnutrition levels have also surged, with an estimated 17 million acutely malnourished children under the age of five.

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Chris Nikoi, WFP’s Regional Director for Western Africa, emphasized the urgency of addressing the hunger crisis. “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,” Nikoi stated.

He stressed the importance of prioritizing emergency responses while also investing in sustainable solutions to strengthen food security, improve agricultural productivity, and enhance the purchasing power of families.

The statement attributed the hunger and nutrition crisis to the combined impacts of conflicts, high food prices, and the climate crisis. Economic shocks, including market disruptions, high inflation, weakened economic activities, depreciating national currencies, and rising costs of fuel and agricultural inputs, have exacerbated the situation, particularly in Nigeria, Ghana, and Sierra Leone.

The WFP’s lean season response is designed to meet the immediate food and nutrition needs of the most vulnerable populations, including refugees, displaced people, and those severely affected by climatic, economic, and security crises.

Despite the increasing magnitude and complexity of these crises, funding has not kept pace, leaving millions of food-insecure families without assistance and at risk of descending into more severe levels of hunger.

The WFP warned of a grim outlook for the 2024 seasonal forecasts, which predict both dry spells and floods in parts of the region.

These conditions could further disrupt farming and livestock productivity, prolong the next lean season, and worsen the vulnerability of already hard-hit communities.

“The escalation of humanitarian needs far outstrips available resources. The only way out of this cycle is to prioritize as well durable solutions,” Nikoi insisted, underscoring the need for sustained investment in long-term strategies to break the cycle of hunger and build resilience in affected communities.

(Edited by Oludare Mayowa; omayowa@globalfinancialdigest.com; Newsroom: +234 8033 964 138)

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