Displaced women from Bama. Many of them have lost their husbands to Boko Haram, and are left to fend for themselves in a different town, far from home. Photo: Rosalyn Velds/NRC

Nigeria crisis inches closer to famine

Published 24. Jul 2017
The food security crisis in north-east Nigeria is forecast to deteriorate between now and the end of August, moving the country even closer to famine.

Food security experts predict a rise in the number of people facing crisis, emergency and famine conditions from 4.7 million to 5.2 million in north-east Nigeria by the end of August. This includes 50,000 people forecast to be affected by famine-like conditions, according to the latest UN Food and Agriculture Organization Global Early Warning report. But due to a lack of access to communities because of insecurity, the exact number of people dying of hunger is impossible to confirm.

“Armed conflict and violence are driving this food crisis,” said Cheick Ba, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) Country Director in Nigeria. “Insecurity is preventing people from farming, and restricting access to local markets. This is depleting grain stocks and pushing food prices beyond people’s reach, with devastating consequences for affected families, including 450,000 acutely malnourished children.”

The May to August lean season is well underway in Nigeria, a time when food stocks are traditionally low and families rely on stockpiled supplies. With many farmers unable to cultivate their land for up to three years already, families have little reserves to draw from.

“We were forced to reduce the food basket we provide to families this month, to make up for the increased price of rice beans and millet,” said Cheick Ba. “Innocent families are bearing the brunt of this brutal conflict, even after they have escaped horrific violence.”

Inflation caused by currency depreciation is compounding the situation further, with conflict areas experiencing prices about 150 per cent higher than in 2015, according to the UN.Despite the worsening food crisis situation, donor countries have only contributed 28 per cent of the money needed to provide the most basic humanitarian assistance this year.

“This is a man-made conflict that needs a man-made solution,” said NRC’s Country Director.

“Providing people with food is only a short term solution. The crisis will only end when the conflict has been resolved and communities can safely return to their land to rebuild their lives.”


People began to flee from north-east Nigeria in 2009, following relentless violence by the armed group Boko Haram. The Nigerian government launched a military operation in 2015 to push the group from the northeast of the country. This resulted in people fleeing the region, with some fleeing further to neighbouring countries. Some 1.7 million people havebeen displaced inside Nigeria since, and over 200,000 have fled to Cameroon, Chad and Niger.