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Persistent high levels of conflict drive high assistance needs during the post-harvest period

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Nigeria
  • December 2020
Persistent high levels of conflict drive high assistance needs during the post-harvest period

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Increased conflict observed in early December led to further displacement in the Northeast, particularly in Borno state, limiting access to farms, reducing the already expected below-normal harvest. This, coupled with atypically high market prices due to increased demand, below-average supply, and poor macroeconomic conditions, are driving low purchasing power among already vulnerable populations. As a result, more households are likely experiencing food consumption gaps indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes. A risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) persists, where Famine could occur in the event that households are cut off from typical food and income sources and food assistance for a prolonged period of time.

    • Armed banditry, kidnapping, and cattle rustling activities have slightly increased in recent months in northwest and northcentral states. This is driving lower than regular engagement in income-earning and agricultural activities among most conflict-affected households. As a result, many poor households are mainly dependent on markets for food and are unable to meet non-food needs, experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. Worst conflict-affected households in Zamfara, Sokoto, and Katsina states who remain displaced and have limited income or no humanitarian assistance are experiencing food consumption gaps and are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    • Households in areas less affected by conflict and/or flooding are consuming own foods normally and engaging in typical livelihood activities. Although some flood-affected households remain displaced and have constrained income, relying mainly on markets for food. Thus, they are in Stressed (IPC Phase 2).  Many flood-affected households are expected to engage in dry season cultivation and will start consuming own foods with the harvest in April/May. As such, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected to emerge.

    • Macroeconomic conditions remain fragile, with the continued increase in the annual inflation, although slightly, despite the rise in international crude oil prices as foreign reserves continue to decline. Though the value of the NGN remains relatively stable, the value of the currency remains lower than last year and the average. Despite the harvest, prices are not seasonally decreasing due to the macroeconomic pressure on the markets and atypically high market demand as many households lost some, if not all, their harvest due to flooding or conflict. Food prices across the country are above-average, with prices even higher in conflict-affected areas of the Northeast.


    The main harvest ended normally throughout the country; however, the sorghum harvest is atypically continuing. Household food stock and market supplies have increased with the harvest; however, remain below-average, resulting in higher than average market demand across the country. The persistent high-levels of conflict in northern areas, widespread flooding, and the indirect impacts of COVID-19, such as restricted input access and reduced income to hire labor, negatively impacted production. Many households in the conflict-affected areas of the Northeast have little to no harvest and continue to depend on markets for food. The federal government, on December 10, launched the 2020/21 national dry rice season. The farmers were encouraged to participate in rice cultivation to recuperate from the devastating floods during the recent growing season.

    The Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC), as of December 30, reported a total of 86,576 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 1,278 deaths. The rate of confirmed cases has increased in recent weeks. Some states such as Kaduna and FCT-Abuja are considering implementing new restriction measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.

    The macroeconomic conditions continued to decline with the formal announcement of a recession and continued high annual inflation rate. The November annual inflation rate was reported at 14.89 percent, driven by low foreign reserves, high staple prices, and the low value of the NGN. The parallel market exchange rate was 476 NGN/USD in early December, while the official rate was 380 NGN/USD. Both rates have remained somewhat stable since August. After strike threats, the federal government decreased domestic petrol prices to 162 NGN/liter in December from 167 NGN/liter. This will likely have some impact on transportation costs and staple prices. Maize, millet, rice, and sorghum prices remain above last year, and the five-year average across the markets monitored despite the ongoing main harvest. Similarly, staple prices are up to nearly 50 percent higher in conflict-affected areas relative to some neighboring markets (Figure 1).

    Sustained Boko Haram attacks and military operations continue to significantly disrupt livelihood and seasonal activities, including limiting access to farmlands, population movement, and access to income and food sources. According to the IOM, a total of 2,042 movements were recorded, comprising 1,744 arrivals and 298 departures, between December 7 and 14. Respondents indicated movement due to voluntary relocation, poor living conditions, improved security, conflict, and fear of attack. On November 28, an insurgent attack took place near Maiduguri, where over 40 rice farmers were killed. This resulted in the disruption in the harvest, dry season land preparation, and some displacement. As the harvest was disrupted, especially for vegetables, the supply of vegetables in some markets in Maiduguri remain lower than usual. Some farmers in the area did not continue the harvest of rice due to fear of attack. Similarly, in neighboring areas, fishing families are not engaging in normal activities and have constrained income and food access. Many households are traveling to Maiduguri for labor, engaging in petty trading or other income-generating activities to earn some income; however, household purchasing power remains low.

    On November 30, the Borno state government resettled about 500 displaced households back to their homesteads in Marte LGA after being displaced for roughly seven years. These households, among other households, in Marte LGA are likely to engage in dry season cultivation and engage in petty trading to access food and income. Currently, these resettled populations are relying on food and cash assistance provided by the government.

    Attacks by bandits and kidnapping are increasing across many central and northern states, including Niger, Taraba, Kaduna, Plateau, Katsina, Sokoto, Nasarawa Zamfara. The most recent kidnapping of 333 students in mid-December in Katsina State, as well as four other bandit attacks in Zamfara State, is indicative of the increasing conflict trend. According to the IOM, in early December, banditry attacks displaced over 3,000 individuals, with 28 fatalities, in Katsina and Zamfara states. Many displaced populations and those who did not flee have difficulty accessing markets and engaging in income-earning activities.

    According to the Food Security Cluster, in October, over 3.9 million people received food and livelihood assistance across Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe States, of which over 1.7 million received food assistance. Most beneficiaries, over 1.3 million, of food assistance are in displacement camps in Borno State. Humanitarian actors provide 70 percent of the monthly household ration in cash, voucher, or in-kind modalities.

    Households worst-affected by the Boko Haram conflict in the Northeast continue to have constrained livelihoods, are mainly dependent on humanitarian food assistance and have limited ability to engage in unskilled labor work. In areas where humanitarian food assistance is significant, mostly around areas where there is a high concentration of displaced people, Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are ongoing. Households with limited access to humanitarian food assistance depend on the small quantities harvested with below-average purchasing power face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. Households in difficult to access areas have little to no access to humanitarian food assistance. They are mainly consuming wild foods and face wider food consumption gaps, and elevated levels of malnutrition are likely facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. A risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) persists in the event there is a shift in conflict that isolates households and further restricts already limited food and income sources for a prolonged period.

    Most conflict and flood-affected households in northwest and northcentral states continue to depend on markets for food and unable to meet non-food needs. Most of these households are in Stressed (IPC Phase 2), with some of the worst conflict-affected households facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Similarly, in areas less impacted by conflict and where flooding has driven substantial damage to crops and infrastructure, affected households are in Stressed (IPC Phase 2). The informal labor opportunities for poor urban households impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic are gradually improving, though still restricted, and these households remain in Stressed (IPC Phase 2). 


    Most assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the October 2020 to May 2021 Nigeria Food Security Outlook remain unchanged except for the following:

    • Formal and informal cross-border trade activities are expected to increase in the coming months following the opening of international land borders, including Seme, Illela, Maigatari, and Mfun, in mid-December and most borders opening at the end of December for all products but rice. The indirect impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, flooding, and the depreciation of the NGN are likely to continue to impact trade flows.
    • As trade is expected to increase, food and livestock prices are expected to decline slightly or remain stable; however, prices will remain well above average and 2019 and early 2020 prices.


    Land preparation and seeding for the dry season cultivation is underway, leading to increased labor and income opportunities, though most flood-affected households will remain market dependent with limited purchasing power and are likely to remain in Stressed (IPC Phase 2). These households affected by flooding are expected to gradually recover as the dry season activities peak through the harvest period in April/May, with Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes emerging in the February to May period. Areas less impacted by flooding and conflict will engage in normal livelihood activities and consuming own foods normally and are in Minimal (IPC Phase 1).  However, escalating conflict in the northern areas led to continuous large-scale reductions in income and access to own food. Many affected households will still have difficulty meeting their non-food needs and will be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Similarly, the worst conflict-affected households in Sokoto, Zamfara, and Katsina states continue to face food consumption gaps and are expected to continue to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. 

    In northeastern areas of the country, displaced households in urban areas who reside in camps in the Northeast are mainly dependent on humanitarian assistance, though unable to meet non-food needs and are in Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!). However, as access to food and income is expected to remain limited with little to no humanitarian assistance, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected among some urban and rural IDPs. With the limited harvest, households that engaged in crop production are consuming own foods; however, with the recent attack by insurgents in Zabarmari area and fear of further attacks, access to food is still expected to be generally limited and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected through May 2021 in much of Borno State. Worst conflict-affected households in the Northeast that remain difficult to access continue to face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) through 2021. Areas where populations are affected by significant losses of livelihood activities and remain inaccessible to humanitarian actors are likely facing similar or worse outcomes as adjacent, accessible areas. A risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) persists throughout this period in a worst-case scenario in which there is a significant shift in conflict that would reduce household access to food and income.


    Figure 1


    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET

    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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