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Prolonged conflict and poor macroeconomy drive high food assistance needs

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Nigeria
  • April 2023
Prolonged conflict and poor macroeconomy drive high food assistance needs

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  • Key Messages
  • Curent Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook Through September 2023
  • Most likely food security outcomes and areas receiving significant levels of humanitarian assistance
  • Key Messages
    • Conflict in northeast Nigeria persists with relative stability due to the slightly reduced capacity of insurgents after months of intensive security force operations. Many displaced households are traveling to homesteads or nearby urban centers to prepare for seasonal land preparation; however, localized attacks continue to limit access to farmlands as well as drive displacement. Markets in accessible areas remain well supplied, though deteriorated household purchasing power and continued poor cash access limit food access. High competition for income-generating opportunities, high prices, and limited remaining food are driving decreased household food access. Consequently, many households are facing the early onset of the lean season and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes through September. Meanwhile, households in inaccessible areas that have minimal access to livelihoods, limited mobility, and a depleted coping capacity face wide food consumption gaps and are expected to experience Emergency (IPC Phase 4).

    • Clashes between local militias, banditry, and violence against civilians remain elevated and continue to limit mobility in the northwest and northcentral states, driving poor dry season harvests and restricted market activity in the worst conflict-affected areas. Land preparation for the upcoming main season cultivation remains below average in most areas. Short-distance population displacement following outbreaks of conflict continues to disrupt livelihoods and limit coping capacity in Benue, Niger, Kaduna, Katsina, Plateau, Sokoto, and Zamfara states. Frequent attacks by bandits have restricted the flow of food, leading to price spikes for staple foods and the lean season has already begun in conflict-affected areas. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely to persist in conflict-affected areas through September.

    • Macroeconomic conditions remain poor in Nigeria despite the slight easing of the cash crisis following the extension of the deadline for using old notes, increases in oil production, and favorable crude oil export prices. Despite increased revenue from oil sales, foreign reserves continue to decline due to the high debt burden. Staple food prices across most markets remain significantly higher than average, limiting food access. The average retail price of petrol increased 43 percent year-on-year in March 2023. High fuel prices will drive increased transportation and production costs, as well as high food prices through the lean season.

    Curent Situation

    In early 2023, the frequency and intensity of fighting between Non-State Armed Groups (NSAGs) and military forces in northeast Nigeria remained relatively consistent with 2022 trends. In March and April, outbreaks of conflict were reported in Monguno, Konduga, Bama, Damboa, Dikwa, Gwoza, and Abadam LGAs in Borno State. These localized attacks continue to displace hundreds of people into garrison towns. In late April, roughly 700 individuals were displaced following an attack in Gwoza, and 200 people were displaced following an outbreak of conflict in Damboa. Meanwhile, households continue to report improvements in perceived security in many areas of Borno State, driving the ongoing return and resettlement of households to their homesteads or urban centers near their area of origin. Returnees also continue arriving from neighboring Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. Additionally, with the government counter-insurgency operations ongoing, many former members of NSAGs and their families continue to migrate from inaccessible areas to urban centers for demobilization, contributing to the overcrowding and high competition for income-generating activities in urban centers. This continues to increase labor competition, heighten market demand, and increase staple prices in affected areas.

    In March and April, in southeast Nigeria, attacks, abductions, and social unrest persisted at higher levels than in 2022. In Imo and Anambra states, attacks by separatist militants are expected to continue in 2023 as court cases proceed to contest the general and governorship elections. While stay-at-home orders in conflict-affected areas have prevented displacement from the violence, the insecurity is negatively impacting trade, commodity flow, and market functionality in the affected areas.

    Banditry, kidnapping, and farmer/herder conflict continue in the northwest and northcentral states, primarily in Niger, Benue, Kaduna, Plateau, Katsina, Sokoto, and Zamfara states. In early April, herders attacked an IDP camp where at least 42 people were killed, and 40 others were injured in Guma LGA, Benue State. An attack in Apa LGA, Benue state left more than 90 people dead and drove population displacement out of over 30 communities. Similar attacks in March involving herders were also reported in Plateau, Kaduna, and Nasarawa states, resulting in fatalities and population displacement. Meanwhile, in Sokoto, Zamfara, and Katsina states, clashes between local militias, abductions, and violence against civilians continue at high levels. In Sokoto state, the conflict remains centered mainly in Isa, Sabon Birni, Goronyo, and Rabah LGAs, and in Zamfara state, the conflict is primarily affecting Tsafe, Zurmi, Anka, Maru, and Shinkafi LGAs. The violent outbreaks between militias and the military are driving displacement to urban centers and disrupting seasonal livelihoods. While some households continue to travel to rural areas to prepare their land for cultivation, many farmers are deterred by the high insecurity in affected areas, resulting in below-average engagement in land preparation. 

    Low foreign reserves and the cash scarcity crisis continue to drive the deterioration of macroeconomic conditions in Nigeria. In April, annual headline inflation continued to increase, reaching 22.22 percent, an over 17-year high driven mainly by food inflation. Data from the Central Bank of Nigeria indicates that foreign reserves have dropped by 10 percent between March 2022 and March 2023, from 39.546 to 35.497 billion USD. The Nigerian Naira’s (NGN) value has remained relatively stable. Cash access improved slightly in April following the government’s decision to extend the use of the old NGN notes through December 2023.

    Crude oil daily production remains consistent at roughly 1.7 million barrels/day, just below the OPEC+ quota of 1.8 million barrels/day. Domestically, the average price of petrol has increased by 43 percent year-on-year as of March 2023, currently costing 264.29 NGN/liter. Imo, Taraba, and Borno states had the highest average retail petrol prices in March, ranging from 324.55 to 332.67 NGN/liter. In Borno state, the high fuel prices are a significant barrier to trade, transportation, and access to food, especially for poor, conflict-affected households with limited income and deteriorating purchasing power.

    The prices of most staple products continue to be exceptionally high. The high prices are primarily driven by the below-average 2022 harvest, leading to atypically early market reliance. Millet demand during Ramadan was elevated and remains so across the country in April. In March, the retail price of millet was 76 percent higher than the five-year average in Kano and 56 percent above the five-year average in Maiduguri (Figure 1). Meanwhile, in March 2023, maize costs 200 NGN/kg in the Kaura Namoda market, which is lower than the same time in 2022, but remains above the five-year average of 148 NGN/kg (Figure 2). The relatively lower prices of maize are attributable to the persisting cash scarcity crisis, which has reduced demand due to severely low cash access and the consequent poor purchasing power of most households. 

    Figure 1

    Millet price trend across major markets in March 2023
    Graph showing Millet prices in Kano, Maiduguri, Gombe, and Kaura Namoda markets in Nigeria in March 2023, March 2022, and the five-year average.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Maize price trend across major markets in March 2023
    Graph showing White Maize prices in Gombe, Kano, Kaura Namoda, and Maiduguri markets in Nigeria in March 2023, March 2022, and the five-year average.

    Source: FEWS NET

    The rainy season is underway in the southern states, beginning with average levels of rainfall in February/March with erratic and heavy downpours in localized areas in the southwest. Farmers are planting cassava, maize, and sorghum as usual, and as of April, the area planted is average. The rainfall has also started in the central states, though not fully established, and land clearance is underway as expected. Meanwhile, in the southeast, there is sustained below-average rainfall distribution in some areas with anticipated impacts on crop planting.

    Funding constraints continue to limit humanitarian food assistance in the northeast. In February, humanitarians reached about 1.6 million people, primarily households in IDP camps. Current rations are targeted to meet roughly 70 percent of beneficiaries' kilocalorie needs. In March in Adamawa state, the government suspended all humanitarian activity, disrupting the provision of food and nutrition assistance; however, assistance reportedly resumed in April. Significant funding gaps for nutrition programming are constraining humanitarian activities in the northeast. As of April, only 16 percent of the funds requested by the nutrition sector for northeast Nigeria have been secured. Similarly, only 9.5 percent of funding needs for food security assistance have been secured for 2023 as of April.

    Acute malnutrition is of increasing concern in northeast Nigeria due to food consumption deficits, disease outbreaks, and the lack of access to nutritious foods. According to the Nutrition Sector, admissions of children 0-59 months with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) were the highest they have been for the last three years in March and have increased by 36 percent between January and March alone in Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa states. Similarly, Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has reported spikes in admissions of malnourished children in Maiduguri. Between January and late April, about 1,300 malnourished children were admitted for intensive treatment at the MSF feeding center in Maiduguri, a roughly 120 percent increase in admissions relative to last year. The March 2023 Humanitarian Situation Update found that acute malnutrition among new arrivals from inaccessible areas of Bama, Gwoza, Ngala, Geidam, and Gujba LGAs for March is Critical (GAM 15-29.9 percent). This is primarily attributable to food consumption deficits and the lack of access to improved sanitation facilities.

    Households’ own produced food stocks are mostly depleted as of April, particularly in areas affected by conflict and flooding in the northeast, northwest, and northcentral states. The March 2023 Humanitarian Situation Update indicates that 63 percent of the individuals arriving from inaccessible areas in the northeast reported having no remaining food stocks in March. Most poor households across northern Nigeria gained only minor yields in the dry season and can earn only minimal income from unskilled labor, such as firewood sales, petty trade, and construction work. This, amid consistently high market prices and limited access to cash, is driving an early onset of the lean season. Many households rely heavily on humanitarian assistance, community support, or crisis livelihood coping strategies to access food. Consequently, conflict-affected areas of the northeast, northwest, and northcentral are facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in April. Households in inaccessible areas of the northeast have limited or no access to assistance, restricted movement, are mainly dependent on wild foods, and face significant food consumption gaps, and likely face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes., IDPs in camps in the northeast who mainly rely on food assistance are meeting only their basic food needs and continue facing Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes. Meanwhile, most households along major floodplains were able to engage in dry season cultivation and fishing and have been able to access limited food and income and are anticipated to face the typical onset of the lean season in June. These households are primarily experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes.

    Updated Assumptions

    The assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the Nigeria Food Security Outlook for February to September 2023 remain unchanged.

    Projected Outlook Through September 2023

    The conflict in the northeast continues to severely impact livelihoods, mobility, and market functionality, as well as limit humanitarian access. Many households are risking their lives to participate in income-generating activities, resorting to wild food consumption, bartering, and begging to access limited food. They will continue facing moderate food consumption gaps and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes through May. As the lean season accelerates in June through August, gaps in food consumption will continue to widen, and households will have depleted coping capacity, driving Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes in several conflict-affected areas through the lean season into September. Accessible households in IDP camps mainly depend on food assistance due to minimal own cultivation, high competition for income-generating activities, and poor coping capacity, and therefore are projected to face Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) and Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes through May. Due to funding constraints, food assistance will likely start declining in June, and households in IDP camps will likely face increased food consumption gaps and are expected to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes through September. For non-displaced households in the northeast, as food stocks exhaust ahead of the lean season and prices seasonally increase amid the cash scarcity crisis, purchasing power will continue to deteriorate. With limited food and income access, households will start exhausting stressed coping strategies and will begin relying on crisis and emergency coping strategies. Consequently, most non-displaced households in the northeast will likely face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes through September.

    In the northwest and northcentral states, many households along floodplains and in areas less affected by conflict are engaging in dry season cultivation and fishing as a source of income and food through May. However, due to the lasting impacts of the 2022 flooding and the upcoming onset of the lean season, many households continue to face slight food consumption gaps and rely on stressed coping strategies to meet their basic food needs. Consequently, these households will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes through the projection period. Meanwhile, the areas most affected by conflict and insecurity in the northwest and northcentral states will continue to have limited access to their primary livelihoods, and many will rely on unskilled labor, petty trading, and the sale of firewood to earn limited income to access food as the lean season advances. Households will become increasingly market reliant; however, the atypical staple prices and limited market functionality in inaccessible areas will likely continue to constrain food access. Thus, these households are anticipated to face moderate food consumption gaps and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes through May. During peak lean season and into September, staple prices will continue to increase, further deteriorating access to food and purchasing power. Households will likely rely on wild food consumption and crisis and emergency livelihood coping strategies to access food. Households are anticipated to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes from June to September. The restricted mobility, limited access to livelihoods, depleted coping capacity, and repeated displacements due to the conflict will drive widening food consumption gaps and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes for very poor households through September. This population is anticipated to remain below the 20 percent population threshold.  

    Most likely food security outcomes and areas receiving significant levels of humanitarian assistance

    Recommended Citation: FEWS NET. Nigeria Food Security Outlook Update, April 2023: Prolonged conflict and macroeconomic challenges drive high food assistance needs, 2023.

    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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