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Assistance needs in the Northeast are elevated due to increasing conflict and large-scale displacement

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Nigeria
  • April 2021
Assistance needs in the Northeast are elevated due to increasing conflict and large-scale displacement

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Increasing of already high levels of conflict in the Northeast is limiting humanitarian activities, agricultural labor activities, as well as the ongoing dry season harvest and household purchasing power. This is driving an increase in the population facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes. Most hard-to-reach areas of Borno State continue to rely on foraging as they have little or no food stocks with limited market access. These areas are expected to remain in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). During the lean season, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected to emerge due to limited ability to engage in typical livelihood activities as populations have been displaced multiple times and access constraints will limit food assistance. A risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) persists in a worst-case scenario if households are cut off from their typical food and income sources and humanitarian assistance for a prolonged period of time.

    • Persistent and recent attacks in Damasak, Dikwa, and Marte LGAs in Borno State have led to over 60,000 people displaced to safer areas, mainly to Maiduguri, based on available information from REACH and IOM. Similar attacks on Geidam LGA in Yobe state led to the displacement of several thousand residents towards neighboring Yusufari, Yunusari, and Damaturu LGAs in Yobe state. Many displaced households face difficulty engaging in typical livelihood activities in the areas where they are displaced to and rely heavily on limited humanitarian assistance. Consequently, many displaced populations are experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes, while the worst affected are facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4). 

    • In the Northwest, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes continue and are expected to persist in the worst conflict-affected areas, particularly among displaced households due to limited livelihood activities and dry season food production. Most conflict-affected households continue to rely mainly on the market for food, where rising food prices constrain access. While some households are consuming own foods and market-dependent households are accessing food normally. Many others are selling livestock to earn income and access food typically, though unable to meet their non-food needs, and are in Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    • The macroeconomic conditions remain poor, largely due to declining foreign reserves. The annual inflation rate continues to increase for the 19th straight month to 18.17 percent in March, with monthly food inflation hitting a nearly 16-year high at 22.95 percent. Similarly, the value of the Naira continues to depreciate relative to other foreign currencies leading to further pressure on already stressed markets. This, coupled with high demand, reduces household purchasing power as unemployment rates continue their upward trend.  


    Despite the end of the recession in the last quarter of 2020, macroeconomic conditions remain poor primarily due to low foreign reserves and government revenue from crude oil. The annual inflation rate increased for the 19th straight month to 18.17 percent in March (Figure 1), with monthly food inflation hitting nearly 16-year peak at 22.95 percent. The Naira continues to depreciate relative to other foreign currencies. The Naira depreciated by about 17 and 28 percent on the formal and parallel market, respectively, between March 2020 and March 2021.

    Staple food prices across all monitored markets remain significantly above last year and the five-year average for all commodities. In March, maize prices are over 100 percent higher relative to the same time last year in Dawanau market in Kano state. While market stocks slightly increased following the start of the dry season harvest in April, market demand remains high mainly due to the below-average 2020/21 harvest and high levels of conflict driving higher market reliance and disruption to trade flows. Also, the high transportation costs due to high petrol price, which is 166 NGN/liter in February, also impact staple food prices.

    The rainy season typically started during February/March in southern areas and started in April/May as usual in the central states with near-normal rainfall. The rainfall has led to land preparation activities beginning in central and northern areas; however, at lower-than-normal levels due to conflict in affected areas. Planting is near normal in the less conflict-prone areas of the south.

    Over the last two to three months, conflict in the Northeast has increased, resulting in large-scale displacement, significant disruption to livelihoods, and declines in humanitarian access. According to REACH, nearly 28,000 individuals were displaced from Dikwa following the attack in early March 2021, although by April, most have returned to Dikwa town. Due to the security risks, there has been limited resumption to humanitarian assistance, and households are slowly rebuilding their livelihoods.  In Borno and Adamawa States, IOM reported nearly 4,800 movements in the first week of April 2021, comprising 2,533 arrivals and 2,264 departures, with about 40 percent highlighted conflict as the reason for movement. This is likely constraining livelihood activities in conflict-prone areas.

    In mid-April, multiple attacks occurred on civilians and humanitarian actors and their facilities in Damasak, Mobbar LGA of Borno state. These attacks continue in some areas where populations have already been displaced once. Displaced populations typically move to neighboring areas where some food assistance can be accessed from host communities or humanitarian actors or to city centers. According to REACH, between 25,000 to 40,000 individuals were displaced from Mobbar and moved towards Geidam LGA in Yobe state. Some other populations relocated to Maiduguri, and few others crossed over to Niger republic. Additionally, all humanitarian services were suspended in Damasak on April 10 following attacks. Although, on April 23, an attack in Geidam has led to further displacement and multiple displacements for many populations. Most of the displaced populations have fled to Damaturu, Yunusari, Yusufari, and Gashua LGAs. Displaced households rely on community support while the State emergency management agency starts planning for assistance delivery.

    Banditry, kidnapping, and communal clashes continue to ravage Northwest and northcentral states. Conflict in late March and April led to over 2,000 people being displaced according to IOM; however, displacement is likely significantly higher during this time as not all conflict areas were assessed.  Displaced households have relocated to safer areas to access limited food from communities, humanitarians, and the government. Despite households relocating to safer areas, it is likely these households have limited access to typical food and income sources as well as to markets. Most communities affected by the conflict remain deserted, while in some affected communities, remaining households are likely elderly, children, and women who find it challenging to relocate. This population has some access to what food stocks remain, although likely limited.

    Communal and farmer/herder conflict has been reported in the last month in many southern and northern states. Conflict, particularly outside of northern areas in Imo, Enugu, Abia, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Ekiti, Osun, and Ondo States, is of concern. This has led to fatalities, displacement, and disruption to livelihoods activities.

    Humanitarian actors continue to assist displaced and vulnerable households across the country, with the highest level of assistance in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe States. According to the Food Security Cluster, around 1.7 million people received food assistance across these three states in February and March, with assistance reaching around 1.5 million beneficiaries in Borno State. Most beneficiaries of food assistance are in displacement camps. Additionally, the government and partners have also provided assistance to displaced populations through cash, food, and supplementary foods. For example, in early April, the government distributed food and cash to over 70,000 people in Bama town. Additionally, the government in Zamfara increased assistance and is distributing assistance as Ramadan welfare to some of the most vulnerable, including IDPs across the state. 

    The dry season harvest for rice, maize, and vegetables such as onion, tomatoes, and pepper are underway in the northern areas, slightly increasing household food stocks and market supply. Nevertheless, market demand remains higher than normal, while market supply is below average, continuing to put pressure on markets with prices maintain their upward trend with the commencement of Ramadan in April. Persistent conflict in the north continues to negatively impact farming activities, including land preparation activities for the upcoming season. Households in conflict-affected areas, particularly in the Northeast and Northwest, continue to depend largely on markets for food. As a result, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are present in most conflict-affected areas of the north.

    Households in displacement camps have improved food access due to ongoing humanitarian assistance, with Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes ongoing. Although, those with limited access to humanitarian assistance, who rely mainly on own production and market access, which is limited, are likely facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Some areas of central Borno, close to city centers like Maiduguri, where households are able to access income to purchase food, are likely facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. Households in inaccessible areas, mainly in Borno state with increased reliance on foraging and no access to humanitarian assistance, are facing large food consumption gaps and are in Emergency (IPC Phase 4).

    Most households affected by insecurity in the Northwest and northcentral states remain displaced and continue to depend on markets for food. They are unable to engage in typical livelihood activities and have constrained income-earning opportunities. These households have limited assistance and face food consumption gaps indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes, particularly in parts of Katsina, Sokoto, and Zamfara states. Some of these households have limited own foods and are unable to meet their non-food needs, and face  Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes.


    Most of the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the February Nigeria Food Security Outlook remain unchanged except for the following:

    • Conflict in the Northeast will most likely increase through the onset of the rainy season, with the level of attacks declining relative to the dry season period. This is attributed to limited and impassible roads in the area. The insurgents will intensify attacks on communities to access food and supplies towards the lean season when market stocks are at the lowest level. While Borno state will remain the epicenter of the Boko Haram conflict in the Northeast, the group will continue to extend their reach towards the Northwest, relying on or intermingling with strengthening criminal groups. Consequently, the peak population displacement period will likely occur through June/July; however, when security permits, many IDPs are likely to return to their homesteads from April and June to engage in agricultural activities.
    • Banditry, kidnapping, cattle rustling, and farmer/pastoral conflict will continue to escalate in the Northwest and North-central states. This is further exacerbated by the increasingly common practice of paying ransoms to kidnappers and increased access to smuggled weapons. Katsina and Kaduna states will remain the epicenter of banditry and kidnapping in the Northwest. Similarly, kidnapping, farmer/pastoralist conflict, and communal agitations in the southern states will intensify and peak towards intense planning for the upcoming general election.
    • Livestock prices will most likely remain elevated despite land borders re-opening and increased livestock flow from Niger, Chad, and Cameroon throughout the scenario period. Livestock prices will peak during the Tabaski period in July, when livestock conditions remain favorable due to pastoral resource availability.


    Poor households in Northwest and central states impacted by communal conflict, armed banditry, cattle rustling, and kidnapping are likely to remain displaced, unable to engage in crop production, difficulty engaging in normal livelihood activities, and earning below-average income. These households would further experience difficulty meeting their food and non-food needs as the lean season peaks from June to September, given their reliance on the market with atypically elevated staple food prices, and will likely face Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Households who were able to cultivate but have limited access to income to meet their non-food needs are expected to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes until the main harvest in October 2021.

    Most conflict-affected households in relatively accessible parts of the Northeast who remain displaced and are within major urban areas with limited access to humanitarian assistance are likely to have limited purchasing power. As a result, they will most likely face Crisis (IPC Phase 3), while those in camps dependent on humanitarian assistance are expected to remain in Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) through at least May. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is expected to emerge among these populations in June due to the anticipated reduction in assistance and increase in displacement. Many households in areas less affected by conflict in the Northeast with functional markets and with the ability to engage in normal livelihood activities; however, at below-average levels, and are likely to experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes through September.

    Across most of the Northeast, income opportunities are expected to be limited with peak staple food prices from June to September; as a result, many households will be unable to meet their food needs and will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Households in inaccessible areas, mainly in parts of Borno State who had limited or no harvests and restricted access to markets, livelihood activities, and assistance, are facing large food consumption gaps with elevated levels of acute malnutrition. These households will likely resort to wild food consumption, limited trade by barter, and some will resort to begging to access food. Consequently, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected to persist.

    Most households in Dikwa have been displaced multiple times in recent months and are likely to face constraints engaging in their typical livelihood activities. Moreover, humanitarian access is expected to be constrained for the coming months. Due to both continued significant constraints to food and income access, especially due to atypically high food prices and humanitarian assistance delivery, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected to emerge in Dikwa during the lean season. A risk of Famine persists where Famine (IPC Phase 5) would occur in a worst-case scenario where households are cut off from humanitarian assistance and typical food and income sources for a prolonged period of time.


    Figure 1


    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET/NBS

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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