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Conflict in the Northwest drives large-scale displacement disrupting livelihoods and the ongoing harvest

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Nigeria
  • December 2021
Conflict in the Northwest drives large-scale displacement disrupting livelihoods and the ongoing harvest

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Conflict in the Northeast has declined in recent months; however, remains relatively high. Given the decline in conflict and the government facilitating the movement of households back to their area of origin, six IDP settlements have closed in and around Maiduguri. Returned households received resettlement packages and some assistance as they slowly rebuild their livelihoods. These households are expected to engage in some labor activities and dry season cultivation. Overall, despite increased engagement in cropping activities relative to recent seasons across the Northeast, most households have limited access to food and income. This, coupled with the atypically high staple food prices, results in lower-than-normal household purchasing power. As a result, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to continue with Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes anticipated in some inaccessible areas. 

    • In recent months, there has been an upsurge in the level of banditry and kidnapping in the Northwest and Central states, driving high levels of displacement and disruption to household engagement in livelihood activities. In November, according to UNHCR, over 11,500 people were displaced from the Northwest to Niger Republic, indicating continued high levels of conflict. Despite the ongoing harvest, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist across most parts of the region. The anticipated off-season activities starting in December will be significantly below average, limiting income and food access. Most households will continue to experience constrained food access and food consumption gaps through May 2022.

    • Macroeconomic conditions continued to slightly improve in November as international oil prices and demand increased, leading to increases in foreign reserves. However, the NGN value remains stable relative to the previous month on both the official and parallel markets, likely due to the influx of remittances associated with the end of the year holidays. This, coupled with high staple demand and high transaction costs, continues to drive atypical staple prices across the country during the harvest period. Staple prices remain significantly above average across much of the country and are expected to remain so through May 2022 as market demand increases and supply declines.


    While conflict has slightly declined in northeast Nigeria, across Nigeria, conflict and insecurity persist at high levels, notably in the Northwest and Northcentral states (Figure 1). As insurgents continue to surrender and the government closes IDP camps within the greater Maiduguri area, many IDPs have returned to their area of origin or adjacent larger towns. Most people are returning to Ngala, Dikwa, Damboa, Gowza, Bama, and Monguno LGAs. The government plans to close all official IDP camps within the greater Maiduguri area by the end of December. IDPs receive a resettlement package that includes food and cash. As this population resettles, they are rebuilding their homes, slowly building assets, and engaging in some of the livelihood activities such as agricultural labor, fishing, and firewood sales.

    In December, five communities across Gulani LGA in Yobe State lost their yet-to-be-harvested crops to a fire in the Northeast. This has resulted in some fatalities as well as the loss of income and food from crops. It is expected that some of the worst-affected households will earn some income from nonagricultural income-earning activities. In other parts of the Northeast, households are engaging in the harvest in December and the limited availability of income-earning activities.

    Conflict and insecurity continue to be of concern in the Northwest and Northcentral states as kidnapping, banditry, and other incidents increased in November and December. Bandits have attacked several communities and routes in Niger, Kaduna, and Plateau states, disrupting livelihood activities among some populations in affected LGAs and towns. Additionally, many households have been displaced in affected areas, where households face difficulty accessing normal livelihood activities in areas where they are displaced to.

    In November, UNHCR reported that over 11,500 people from Sokoto state fled to the Niger Republic, compared to 3,500 people in September. This reflects increases in conflict, which is likely further disrupting the ongoing harvest and overall livelihood activities. In early December, telecommunication services were restored in some areas of Katsina state. Although services remain, shut down in some LGAs of Katsina State. Markets were also opened in areas where telecommunications services have turned back on. This is leading to improvements in market activity in affected areas as well as trade flows.

    Livestock migration along floodplains searching for pasture has resulted in localized conflict due to livestock entering farmlands. Farmer/herder conflict is primarily concentrated in Nasarawa, Niger, Benue, Kogi, Adamawa, and Taraba states, within the Benue and Niger river trough. There is also localized related conflict in Jigawa, Kano, Yobe, Bauchi states. This has resulted in some fatalities and the loss of livestock and crops. The overall impacts of this conflict have had localized and minor effects on households’ ability to engage in typical livelihood activities as entire herds or cropping areas have not been lost.

    According to the National Bureau of Statistics, most macroeconomic indicators are improving. The GDP improved in the last quarter, and the annual inflation rate declined by half a percentage point to 15.4 percent in November. Although the decline was slight between October and November, this marks the eighth month of continuous decline in annual inflation. As of mid-December, the parallel market exchange rate was 570 NGN/USD, about 13.5 percent lower than June, while the NGN on the official market was 410 NGN/USD, similar to that of June. Prices of manufactured and imported products remain high as the overall NGN exchange rate remains poor.

    Markets across the country are functioning normally except in conflict-affected areas. This is notable in northern Nigeria, especially the Northwest, where markets are either functioning at below-average levels or not functioning as some trade routes remain restricted. Despite the ongoing harvest, staple food prices remain elevated due to the continued poor macroeconomic conditions. Price trends between October and November were mixed across the country. Prices are much higher in conflict-affected areas as traders do not frequently travel to these areas.

    Agricultural labor availability is generally normal; however, remains constrained in conflict-affected areas. Other households are also engaging in unskilled work, including loading and off-loading, construction work, and tricycle taxi. Fishing activities are limited to areas with access to water bodies. Overall, income from labor is below-average.

    In October, about 2.5 million people received humanitarian food assistance across Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states, of which over 1.7 million beneficiaries are in Borno state. In November, CARE International provided support to 72,910 individuals with a standard ration among IDP camps and the host community in Dikwa. OCHA, WFP, and other partners provided 18 trucks carrying 30 metric tons of food each in mid-November to beneficiaries in Damasak, Magumeri, Gajiram, and Monguno LGAs. Similarly, Borno state government has continued to provide both food and cash assistance to IDPs while reestablishing displaced populations back to their areas of origin in a bid to restore their livelihoods. The government anticipates that all resettled IDPs should be able to fend for themselves and build resilience gradually in their new locations. 

    The conflict-affected households in the Northeast, particularly those in urban areas and camps, are reliant on food assistance and are facing Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!). However, households outside the camps are dependent on own limited food that will last for a few months and face food consumption gaps indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Households that remain in inaccessible areas have limited or no access to humanitarian assistance and rely on limited cultivation, wild food consumption, and bartering. Thus, they are facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes.

    According to the November Famine Monitoring System bulletin[1], which surveys those who recently left inaccessible areas in the Northeast, over 60 percent of surveyed households had borderline or poor food consumption, indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes. Households from these areas have limited food stocks and are reliant on market and wild foods as well as begging. Similarly, the Household Hunger Scale (HHS) measures perceived hunger, that around 80 percent of analyzed households were facing hunger indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes. Specifically, 2.4 percent and 1.5 percent of households reported levels of hunger indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) outcomes, respectively.

    Conflict-affected households in the Northwest remain displaced and unable to harvest their crops normally and rely on the market for food. They are facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3).


    [1] Caution should be used when interpreting these nutrition results as they are from populations who recently left hard-to-reach areas and are not representative of the area. It is likely this represents some of the worst-affected populations. As noted in the FMS bulletin, interpretation of this data should be done with caution due to the adapted methods that are used to gather information and data from inaccessible areas.


    The assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the Nigeria Food Security Outlook for October 2021 to May 2022 remain unchanged. 


    Banditry and kidnapping for ransom in the Northwest continue to increase, resulting in high population displacement and disruption of livelihood activities, including constrained crop harvest and market disruptions, particularly in Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina, Niger, and Kaduna states. Affected households will remain displaced and mainly rely on community support, limited government assistance, and minimal income-earning activities for food and income. Some of these households depend on unskilled labor, agricultural labor, water hawking, and begging to access some food and income. These households are expected to face food consumption gaps and will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes through at least May 2022. Some households have been displaced multiple times, and others have sold their assets to settle ransom to release their relatives or access their fields for the harvest and/or evade attacks by the bandits. These worst-affected households are expected to have limited household food stocks and entirely market dependent or reliant on the community for food and expected to be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5)

    In the Northeast, the level of conflict continues to decline, though sporadic attacks persist. Some resettled households will engage in dry season cultivation and labor work to access food and earn income. Although, these households are expected to face difficulty fully engaging in the dry season agriculture to cover their food needs and are expected to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Households in hard-to-reach areas have limited access to land and can only crop substantially small pieces of land, and the harvest will hardly last more than a month. Thus, these households continue to face large food consumption gaps and are expected to experience Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes through May 2022. 


    Figure 1

    Figure 1

    Source: 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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