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Populations in the northeast remain highly dependent on humanitarian assistance for food access

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Nigeria
  • August 2017
Populations in the northeast remain highly dependent on humanitarian assistance for food access

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Most Likely Food Security Outcomes
  • Key Messages
    • An elevated risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) continues in northeast Nigeria, where in addition to directly leading to loss of life, ongoing Boko Haram conflict continues to significantly limit food availability and access. Large populations have lost their livelihoods, and many remain highly dependent on humanitarian assistance to meet their basic food needs. Furthermore, areas of Borno State remain inaccessible to humanitarian actors, and in many instances populations are congregated in larger cities away from their homes.

    • Large populations in Borno State and some surrounding areas of Yobe and Adamawa States remain heavily dependent on humanitarian assistance for food access. The worst-affected populations are facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4), with a high risk of acute malnutrition and elevated mortality related to food insecurity. Extreme levels of acute food insecurity are possible in a worst-case scenario where displaced populations become cutoff due to a shift in conflict and emergency assistance provision is halted, a situation similar to what occurred in Bama LGA during the first half of 2016.

    • Humanitarian actors have continued to scale-up assistance across the three northeastern states of Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe, reaching more than 3,200,000 conflict-affected people with food and non-food assistance in July 2017. However, more populations are yet to be reached and remain vulnerable in several areas of the northeast during the peak of the lean season period.

    • The main agricultural season is progressing favorably in most of the country, and harvests are expected to be average to above-average in most areas due to improved access to inputs, as well as funding and technical support from the government. Most poor households are consuming own food stocks and are facing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity. Exceptions are households affected by the Boko Haram conflict or in areas affected by flooding, where harvest prospects are limited.


    Current Situation

    National Overview

    The quantity and distribution of rainfall has been near-average across most areas of the country, and the growing season is progressing normally. Due to the favorable growing season, farmers are engaged in typical weeding activities, as well as the application of fertilizer and pesticides. However, pest infestations on cereals and legumes, including on groundnut and cowpea, have persisted. The primary impact of these infestations has been on late-planted crops, limited to localized areas. Reports from different areas are unclear whether the pests are the endemic African Army Worm, or whether the impacts derive from the invasive Fall Army Worm.

    Harvests of early maturing crops such as millet, maize, and yams are underway, as well as legumes such as cowpea and groundnut. Pastoral resources for livestock are also favorable in most areas. However, according to the Nigerian Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA), flooding has occurred along some major river floodplains, impacting 16 states across different regions of the country through July 2017. This has led to damage to farmland and infrastructure, as well as population displacement in affected areas. Harvests will be below-average in these areas.

    Conflict between farmers and pastoralists has continued in the central states of Kaduna, Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba, and Plateau, limiting access to the widely available pastoral resources in these areas. Similarly, cattle rustling has continued in the northwestern part of the country (Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, and Kaduna States), leading to early transhumance to the less affected areas of southern Nigeria. This is further compounded by the increasing rates of kidnapping in most areas across the country.   

    The macroeconomic recovery continued through July 2017. The Nigerian naira (NGN) remained mostly stable against the U.S. dollar (USD) between June and July, with a slight strengthening from 366.25 NGN/USD to 365.38 NGN/USD. This has further narrowed the gap between the official interbank rate and the parallel market rate, to about 2 percent. The stabilization of the naira has halted the deterioration in purchasing power in recent months, and has led to increased trade activities. Similarly, the CPI reduced from 16.10 to 16.05 as foreign reserves increased by about 2 percent between June and July 2017.

    The continuing high inflation rate was reported to be driven by high prices for staples and other food items. Prices of major staples such as cereals (maize, millet, rice, and sorghum) and tubers (yams and gari) are higher than last year and well above average across the country, although have not exhibited large increases during the lean season. Relatively stable prices during the lean season period are primarily attributable to the low purchasing power of most households and the early green harvests of yams, maize, millet, and groundnut, which have increased food access in localized areas. However, in the conflict-affected areas of the northeast region, prices of staples increased by about 4 to 13 percent relative to the previous month, and are approximately 60 percent higher than at the same time last year for most commodities. These prices are in the range of 70 - 120 percent above the five-year average.

    In addition to directly leading to loss of life, ongoing Boko Haram conflict continues to significantly limit food availability and access in many areas of the Lake Chad region, particularly in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe States, with an increased rate of attacks on soft targets such as markets, worship centers, and security posts relative to previous months. Traders are similarly subject to attacks along major routes in the northeast. The June 2017 IOM displacement tracking matrix round XVII across the six northeastern states (Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba, and Yobe) indicates a total IDP population of 1.825 million, with nearly 80 percent of these (~1,440,000 people) in Borno State. Approximately 141,000 people are displaced in Adamawa State, while nearly 107,000 people are displaced in Yobe State. These numbers of displaced people represent a slight decline of about three percent relative to the previous round of data in May 2017, due in part to influxes of displaced people from outlying areas to major towns. The June IOM-DTM assessment indicated that approximately 1.3 million displaced people have returned to their Local Government Areas (LGAs) of origin, indicating an increase of two percent relative to the previous round. However, most returnees remain in LGA headquarters or larger cities.

    Humanitarian actors have continued to scale up assistance across the three northeastern states of Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe, reaching more than 3,200,000 conflict-affected people with food and non-food assistance in July 2017. About 1.698 million people received food assistance, and another 863,183 individuals received agriculture support. The remaining populations reached were assisted with cash transfers. Humanitarian actors were able to reach populations in 5 LGAs in Adamawa, 13 LGAs in Yobe, and 19 LGAs in Borno State in July. However, humanitarian actors are unable to reach populations in other LGAs, in some cases due to limited funding across the three states, while Abadam, Guzamala, and Marte LGAs in Borno State remain inaccessible due to the persisting conflict and military operations. Similarly, Kala Balge LGA in Borno State remains inaccessible due to the poor condition of access routes during the rainy season.

    An elevated risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) continues in northeast Nigeria. Large populations have lost their livelihoods, and many remain highly dependent on humanitarian assistance to meet their basic food needs. Information on inaccessible areas of northern and central Borno state is limited to reports from those leaving these highly insecure areas. Many of those that have reached aid agencies in recent months, from northern Borno in particular, present a far worse nutritional status than populations in neighboring, accessible areas. A Famine may be ongoing in these inaccessible areas where conditions are likely similar or worse than in neighboring, accessible areas already facing extreme food security outcomes.


    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Most households across the country are engaged in the typical seasonal activities of weeding and application of fertilizer and pesticides. Others are engaged in early harvests of millet, maize, yams, and cowpea, depending on the area. These harvests and labor activities have improved food access in much of the country. Most poor households will sustain themselves with these activities until the main harvests beginning in October, with most areas of the country expected to remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity throughout the outlook period through January 2018. However, as food prices continue to increase during the peak lean season period and as the naira (NGN) remains weak against regional and other currencies as compared to last year, many poor households will have reduced purchasing power, limiting food access. This is further compounded by the flooding in localized areas. Thus, some populations in these areas will likely face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity during the period.

    In northeast Nigeria, however, refugees continue to return from neighboring countries, mainly from Cameroon. Many IDPs are also returning to their homesteads of origin where security conditions permit. Many of these households will continue to face significant difficulty in access to food, shelter, and water. Most areas in Borno State, as well as parts of Yobe and Adamawa States that are most affected by the conflict, will remain in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) acute food insecurity. Humanitarian access has improved to many cities in Borno State over the last year, where many affected populations now reside. However, displaced households continue to be highly dependent on emergency assistance and remain in areas previously made inaccessible by the conflict. Extreme levels of acute food insecurity are possible in a worst-case scenario where displaced populations become cutoff due to a shift in conflict and emergency assistance provision is halted, a situation similar to what occurred in Bama LGA during the first half of 2016. An elevated risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) will continue in inaccessible areas. Other areas of the northeast will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) as large populations continue to face significant difficulty meeting basic food needs during the lean season period.

    Figures Estimated food security outcomes for northeast Nigeria, August 2017

    Figure 1

    Estimated food security outcomes for northeast Nigeria, August 2017

    Source: FEWS NET

    Fatalities reported due to conflict, January 1 – July 21, 2017

    Figure 2

    Fatalities reported due to conflict, January 1 – July 21, 2017

    Source: Data from ACLED

    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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