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Famine may be ongoing in inaccessible areas of the northeast

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Nigeria
  • December 2016
Famine may be ongoing in inaccessible areas of the northeast

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  • Key Messages
  • Northeast Nigeria
  • Assumptions
  • Most Likely Food Security Outcomes
  • Key Messages
    • Borno State remains the center of on-going conflict involving Boko Haram groups. There are 1.4 million internally displaced people (IDPs) in the state and several areas remain inaccessible due to military operations. Many LGAs are in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) acute food insecurity and the risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) in inaccessible areas will remain high over the coming year. Several IDP concentrations are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3!) where assistance is likely to continue preventing Famine, but sustained humanitarian access is critical

    • Conflict and displacement are also continuing to impact food security outcomes in Adamawa and Yobe States. Madagali in Adamawa and Gujba and Gulani in Yobe are LGAs close to the Sambisa forest where households have been unable to engage in crop production and where there is limited access for humanitarian actors. In these LGAs, households continue to face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) acute food insecurity, while other less affected LGAs in Northern Adamawa and rural Yobe will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through May 2017.

    • At the national level, average rainfall levels and an increase in the area planted during the 2016 cultivation season led to average to above-average main harvests across most of the country. Harvests between October and January are allowing household and market stocks to recover and prices decline. Despite seasonal price reductions, staple food prices remain significantly above last year and five-year average levels due to inflation and devaluation of the Naira.


    The 2016 main cultivation season was characterized by adequate rainfall across most of the country with some areas of localized dryness as well as flooding along major rivers resulting in population displacement and destruction of farmlands in Kebbi, Kogi, Niger, Benue, Kano, Kano, Yobe, Jigawa and coastal states in the southern region. The 2016 main season crop harvests are concluded in most areas across the country. In northern areas of the country, households are in the final phase of harvests and processing of major staples including rice, maize, sorghum, and millet, as well as cash crops including cowpea, groundnut, sesame, and ginger. Yams and cassava harvests in the central and southern areas of the country have also been favorable. Poor households across the country are now consuming more of their own-crop production and food availability and access has improved substantially since the summer lean season.

    Nigeria’s National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS) was unable to conduct a crop survey for the 2016/17 season. In order to estimate production across the country, FEWS NET considered agro-climatic conditions and yield indicators (SARRA-H factor) provided by CILSS/AGHRYMET and estimates of area planted provided by local Agricultural Development Programme (ADP) staff. Findings suggest above-average and record high staple cereal production (Figure 1) at the national level. These harvest levels were driven by high prices for agricultural commodities which led more people to move into the agriculture sector and existing farms to increase area planted. High production levels persisted despite significantly below-average sorghum and millet production in the northeast of the country.

    In addition to agricultural production, the typical rainfall pattern across the country also led to adequate pasture availability for livestock and average body conditions. Pastoral livelihoods are thus expected to benefit from increased milk output and favorable livestock sale prices. The favorable growing season has also provided both agriculture income for farming households and agricultural labor opportunities to poor, landless households. Income opportunities for non- agricultural labor such as construction work, petty trading, and loading and off-loading have also increased with the onset of harvests and dry season activities. Although purchasing power remains limited by historically high commodity prices and inflation, there has been a seasonal improvement due to favorable harvests and subsequent decline in food prices.

    On most markets across the northern part of the country where there is surplus cereal production, the prices of staple cereals declined from September to October. The price of white maize declined by 33, 21, 16 and 12 percent on Gombe, Saminaka, Maiduguri and Kaura markets, respectively. Millet prices also declined by 14, 12 and 5 percent on Gombe, Maiduguri and Aba markets (Southern Nigeria) relative to September prices. Prices remained relatively stable in major regional market like Dawanau in Kano and in deficit production areas in the southern part of the country. From September to October, white and yellow maize changed by less than 5 percent in markets in Kano, Lagos, and Ibadan while millet prices remain stable in Ibadan.

    Despite the declining or stable prices for most staple foods across the country, the current prices remain significantly higher relative to last year and the five-year average. Imported rice prices increased by over 100 percent compared to five-year average across most markets, with a similar trend also observed for local rice and gari. Maize prices have increased by between 50 and 150 percent; millet prices increased by about 68 to 90 percent; cowpea prices increased by over 50 percent; and sorghum increased by about 76 to 204 percent relative to the five-year average.

    These atypical staple food prices are mainly attributable to the persisting and negative macro-economic situation in the country. These trends are mostly driven by reduced oil revenue related to reduced international crude oil prices, as well as vandalization of pipelines in Niger Delta, and have led to declining government revenue, foreign reserves, and cash liquidity in the economy. Consequently, the Naira continues to lose value against major foreign currencies. The exchange rate in the parallel market showed a decline of about 18 percent to NGN 469.00 per US Dollar in October 2016 from NGN 396.15 in August 2016. The Consumer Price Index which measure the inflation in the economy also increased by 2.6 percent between September and October 2016 with the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics reporting that the increased CPI was mainly driven by the food sector, specifically the increased prices for cereals, bread, meat, oil and fats.

    Insecurity, including continued Boko Haram conflict, farmer/pastoralist clashes, cattle rustling, and communal clashes are also compounding the situation in affected areas. The communal clash in Odukpani LGA of Cross-river State in the Southern part of the country has left many people without productive assets. Similarly, the on-going communal clashes in southern part of Kaduna State since October led to fatalities, population displacement and destruction of farm-lands. Farmer/pastoralist conflict also continues across most of the North-Central states including Nassarawa, Benue, Kogi and even in Enugu State in the South. Cattle rustling activities persist in northwestern and central states – Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna, Sokoto and Niger. All of these have resulted in displacement of persons and disruption of livelihoods, making it difficult for affected populations to meet their food needs. Although the majority of displacement nationally is related to Boko Haram conflict in the northeast (IOM/DTM), displacement numbers are further aggravated by these persisting hazards in the rest of the county. Figure 3 summarizes the last two rounds of the International Migrations Organization's Displacement Tracking Matrix in Nigeria. Though states outside of northeast were not covered during the October survey, figures as of August 2016 show that over 200,000 people are displaced due to non Boko Haram related conflict.

    For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report.

    Northeast Nigeria

    Northeastern Nigeria continues to be affected by the Boko Haram insurgency, with Borno State experiencing the most severe impacts. FEWS NET published an in-depth analysis for Borno at the LGA and IDP camp level in December. In addition   to the high level of need in Borno State, significant populations in Adamawa and Yobe States continue to be affected. Although these states are experiencing an improved security situation and an increasing number of IDPs returning to their communities, Northern Adamawa and rural Yobe remain areas where large populations continue to face significant restrictions to their livelihoods and markets.

    In Adamawa State the insurgency continues to impact the northern areas. Most residents of the affected LGAs are starting to return and have begun to rebuild their livelihoods. In Gombi, Maiha, Hong, Mubi North and Mubi South LGAs the land cultivated this season was considerably higher than last year, though still below the five-year average. Additionally, income generating opportunities have also increased through improved market functioning and trading and very poor households report having more access to labor work. Preparation for off-season activities has begun and households are expected to continue recovering livelihood assets through dry season harvests and income opportunities. Humanitarian access to Adamawa remains high with over ten partners providing food and nutrition assistance in all LGAs (OCHA, November 3W). It is expected that assistance will continue to help households rebuild livelihoods and meet their food needs.

    Despite improvements in most LGAs, Michika and Madagali LGAs remain threatened by Boko Haram attacks in rural areas. There has been minimal to no agricultural production for the past three seasons in these LGAs, there are more severe restrictions on agricultural inputs where production has been possible, and markets remain severely disrupted (Figure 4). In Michika, communities including Nkafanizoya, Ngrippa, Sina Malla and Sina Kwande remain largely deserted, while in Madagali the situation is more severe with almost all towns deserted due to on-going insurgent fighting. Only Shuwa, Gulak and Madagali towns remain inhabited and there is limited humanitarian support with only one local NGO (HARAF- Hope and Rural Aid Foundation) reporting operations and occasional assistance to the accessible areas. Madagali LGA is still inaccessible according to UN security classification, which has meant that international NGOs are unable to reach out to the returnees and remaining populations in the LGA despite the fact that the route leading to Madagali from Michika is safe and accessible. The military reports providing some water, health and nutrition support, although this assistance would only cover a small portion of the reported 28,350 and 113,254 people who have returned to the two LGAs, respectively, (IOM/NEMA DTM Round XII October).

    Preliminary results from the UNICEF led Nutrition and Food security surveillance survey in the northeast of Nigeria conducted between October and November 2016 depicts a stable condition in the North Adamawa survey domain (Figure 5) for most of the indicators. Madagali and Michika were covered in the survey, although two selected enumeration areas in these LGAs had to be replaced due to inaccessibility. Prevalence of GAM for WHZ scores is 5.3 percent (3.8 – 9; 95% CI), while crude death rate is 0.44/10,000 persons/day (0.30 – 0.65, 95% CI) and the under 5 death rate is 0.99 (0.53 – 1.82, 95% CI). Although the crude death rate is near borderline, these indicators are all in line with Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity thresholds.

    In Yobe State, Gujba and Gulani LGAs are the worst affected by the Boko Haram insurgency, though there is an increasing return of residents back to the major towns within these LGAs. Some of the rural areas within the periphery of the Sambisa forest still face on-going attacks and most people cannot return to these communities. Markets in these areas are facing disruptions with reduced and limited activity, which is limiting access to income and food. Another major constraint for IDP return is lack of shelter after complete destruction of infrastructure and facilities. Nine partners are providing assistance in the food security sector (OCHA, November 3W), including WFP who has significantly scaled up food assistance since September. Nutrition screening data since May 2016 indicate Serious (IPC for Acute Malnutrition) GAM levels in LGAs where data is available including Gujba, Gulani, Jakusko, Tamuwa, and Nangere. Livelihood activities such as agricultural production, off-season activities along the Komadugu-Yobe floodplains including fishing as well as pastoralism for the populations in northern Yobe State are significantly below average.

    The preliminary results from the recent Nutrition and Food security surveillance survey in Yobe indicates a critical situation for across most of the state. Yobe was divided into three survey domain areas covering North, Central and Southern areas of the state (Figure 5). In southern Yobe the prevalence of WHZ GAM was 10.7 percent (8.3 – 13.6; 95% CI), with a crude death rate of 0.36/10,000 persons/day (0.24 – 0.54, 95% CI) and the under 5 death rate was 0.68 (0.29 – 1.55, 95% CI). In central Yobe the prevalence of WHZ GAM was 10.3 percent (7.3 – 14.2; 95% CI), while the crude death rate was 0.63/10,000 persons/day (0.39 – 1.01, 95% CI) and the under 5 death rate was 2.06 (1.24 – 3.38, 95% CI). Finally in northern Yobe WHZ GAM prevalence was 14.3 percent (1.6 – 18.9; 95% CI), while crude death rate was 0.50/10,000 persons/day (0.36 – 0.68, 95% CI) and under 5 death rate was 1.90 (1.31 – 2.72, 95% CI).


    The most likely scenario for the October 2016 to May 2017 period is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Onset of 2017 season: The 2017 rainy season will start on-time throughout the country beginning in the south during February/March and later in areas further north as the intertropical front (ITF) moves northward. Rainfall levels are expected to be average in most areas
    • Conflict and Recovery in Northeast Nigeria: Insecurity is expected to continue in Borno State and in some areas of Northern Adamawa and Eastern Yobe States around the Sambisa Forest and along national borders with Chad, Niger, and Cameroon, severely limiting access to livelihood activities for many. While the nature of the conflict is dynamic, it is assumed that the overall scope of the conflict will not change drastically in areas that are currently insecure. Market activities are expected to improve in some towns and rural areas where improvements in physical accessibility and security have increased trade flows, primarily in southern and central Borno State as well as in most areas of Yobe and Adamawa States. However, trade routes will still be subject to road attacks by Boko Haram and prices are expected to remain very high as December stocks diminish, increasing during 2017 beyond their already elevated levels. This will severely constrain purchasing power among market-dependent households with only limited relief from off-season crop production and labor opportunities.
    • Oil Production and Revenue: Even if international oil prices continue to recover, it is unlikely that government revenue from oil production will significantly increase in the scenario period. This would be due to both economic lag and the continued Niger Delta militant activities which are expected to persist at targeting major crude oil pipelines and oil production.
    • Naira devaluation and international trade: The devaluation of the Naira will persist and will continue to be exchanging lower relative to other foreign currencies such as the USD and FCFA. This will continue as low global oil prices are expected to continue to limit export earnings. Household purchasing power will depreciate further and consumption pattern will evolve as demand for imported food will continue to decline and shifting towards local foods. This trend will continue to be exacerbated by high import parity prices causing increased West African regional demand for Nigerian food commodities.
    • Prices: Staple food prices including cereals and tubers will continue to decline or remain stable seasonally from October to February due to the main harvests which will keep markets and households well stocked. Food prices will begin to increase in March as traders begin to replenish and institutional purchases begin, increasing market demand and prices. During April/May food demand will slightly slow down due to the dry season harvest and the early green harvest, increasing market supplies. Despite these seasonal fluctuations, prices are expected to remain above last year and the five-year average due to inflation.
    • Labor/ Wages: Labor work will be average across the country and will increase towards the main harvest in October through December as the harvest peaks. During the dry season activities going from December to May labor demand will also increase. It is expected that labor wages will be average in most areas across the country. The usual labor movement from the northern areas to the southern part of the country for menial jobs will also occur as usual. However, labor movement into Nigeria will be below average due to fear of the insecurity.
    • Communal conflict levels: Communal conflict across the country, mainly between herdsmen and farmers and in some areas inter-tribal conflict will remain at typical levels seen over the last few years. This will continue to occur in the north central states of Kaduna, Nasarawa, Plateau, Benue, Taraba, though gradually expanding to the southern areas.
    • Transhumance- Pastoralist movement from the northern areas towards the southern part of the country will begin 1 to 2 months earlier than normal due to the communal conflict in the central states, cattle rustling activities in the northwest and insurgency in the northeast, restricted access to vast grazing land across the northern region. This will likely lead to increased farmer/pastoralist conflict to expand towards the southern states. Favorable rainfall amount during the growing season will provide opportunities for adequate pasture and water availability in most areas leading to good livestock body conditions.
    • Malnutrition levels: Usually the prevalence of acute malnutrition remains above the 10 percent alert threshold for the period from October to January. The average of the GAM prevalence from the last three non-consecutive post-harvest surveys (DHS 2008, DHS 2013 & Smart 2014) is 13.5 percent which reflects a serious nutritional situation at the national level. This situation is more critical in the areas affected by conflicts. However, this year's agro-meteorological conditions are favorable to a relatively normal harvest period, and given the epidemiological situation is relatively normal, the prevalence of global acute malnutrition will generally be lower than the seasonal average of the harvest period (GAM : ≥10% and < 13%).
    • Dry Season Farming: Off-season activities along major floodplains and fishing activities will likely be average to above average in most areas. Government support for the dry season activities such as increased access to funding and inputs, import restriction policies to boost local production for rice will lead to increased farmer participation during the dry season period. Also in areas known for typical dry season cultivation along major river floodplains such as the River Niger, River Benue plains, Komadugu –Yobe plains, Hadejia – Jamaare, Sokoto-Rima, the dry season activities will be above average due to direct Government support through inputs provision by the “Anchor Borrowers Program” across the states


    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Much of northern, eastern, and central Borno State will remain in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) through at least May 2017. A detailed analysis of these areas is available here, with conclusions showing that the limited availability of main harvest stocks in the northeast as well as restricted purchasing power associated with limited income earning and high staple food prices will continue to limit access to food and income. IDP concentrations at Monguno, Ngala, Dikwa, Bama, and Banki Town are classified at Crisis (IPC Phase 3!), but only because of humanitarian assistance provision as households remain highly dependent on food aid for their food access. In the absence of this assistance, these IDP concentrations could be classified in Famine (IPC Phase 5). Additionally, large areas of Borno State are expected to remain inaccessible to humanitarian actors. Given the severity of food security, nutrition and mortality outcomes in neighboring accessible areas, and given the poor physical condition of people coming from the inaccessible areas, the risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) will remain elevated through at least next September in large portions of northern and central Borno State that are inaccessible.

    Households that are worst affected by the Boko Haram conflict in Adamawa and Yobe States including Gujba, Gulani (Yobe) and Madagali (Adamawa), have been unable to engage in crop production for the past three consecutive seasons and have limited humanitarian support. These areas will be facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) acute food insecurity through at least May 2017. Households in areas less impacted by the insurgency in both Adamawa and Yobe States that were able to participate in the agricultural season, although at below-average harvest levels and that have limited access to income will resort to market earlier than usual and will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity throughout the outlook period.

    Most households in throughout the rest of the country will access food during the scenario period through their own production as harvests conclude and off-season production begins. They will also adopt the normal lean season reliance on wild foods where the harvest could not sustain them until the harvest of dry season crops. Households will be able to use normal livelihood strategies such as cash crop sales, casual labor work, livestock sales, consumption of own stocks and market purchase to access income and food normally. Outside of the northeast, the rest of the country will remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity through at least May 2017 as the dry season harvest peaks during April/May 2017. A small proportion of households affected by localized hazards including communal conflict, pastoralist/farmer clashes and cattle rustling activities will be unable to meet their basic food needs during February to May 2017 and will resort to increased labor work, indebtedness, and sale of firewood and livestock to access food on markets.


    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. Nigeria Staple food production, 000s MT

    Figure 2

    Figure 1.

    Source: NAERLS and FEWS NET

    Figure 2.  Sorghum price and exchange rate trends in northern Nigeria (01/15-10/16)

    Figure 3

    Figure 2.

    Source: FEWS NET, OANDA, Bureau de Change

    Figure 3. IDP populations in Nigerian States

    Figure 4

    Figure 3.

    Source: IOM DTM Rounds XI & XII

    Figure 4. Northeast Nigeria market and trade route activity – week of November 14, 2016

    Figure 5

    Figure 4.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 5.

    Figure 6

    Figure 5.

    Source: UNICEF and Nutrition Sector

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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