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Outcomes in areas of northeast remain heavily dependent on humanitarian assistance

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Nigeria
  • February - September 2018
Outcomes in areas of northeast remain heavily dependent on humanitarian assistance

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Key Messages
    • Boko Haram conflict has left approximately 1.8 million people displaced in northeastern Nigeria and has severely limited livelihoods options for many more. Although the area under military control has expanded in recent months, the number of conflict events has remained high, with 2017 registering the most fatal conflict events in Borno State since the beginning of the insurgency. The ongoing conflict is expected to severely limit area cultivated during the primary 2018 agricultural season.

    • Humanitarian agencies have provided sustained food assistance in the northeast and provided significant input support for 2018 dry season agricultural activities. Since March 2017, food assistance has reached 1.9 million people or more per month, including 2.3 million people reached in January 2018. However, surveys of displaced populations receiving assistance have indicated that food remains a primary need, highlighting the very limited livelihoods options and high dependence on humanitarian assistance.

    • In most of Borno State and parts of Adamawa and Yobe States, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are ongoing. Areas surrounding the Sambisa Forest, as well as eastern Borno State and the area along Lake Chad, are likely to deteriorate to Emergency (IPC Phase 4) during the upcoming lean season, in the absence of further assistance. Significant areas within these regions remain inaccessible to humanitarian actors, and it is likely that outcomes are similar or worse than in adjoining accessible areas.

    • Outside of the northeast, most poor households have typical stocks of own-produced food, are engaged in normal livelihoods activities and are facing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity. However, many areas are likely to deteriorate to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) during the lean season, due primarily to high food prices and conflict between pastoralists and farmers. The most-affected households in these areas are likely to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    National Overview
    Current Situation

    Markets and trade

    Staple food prices: Market supplies and household stocks remain relatively high across most areas of the country due to favorable main season harvests in most areas between September and December 2017. Dry season harvests have started in some areas, particularly for green maize and vegetables such as onions, peppers, and tomatoes, slightly increasing income opportunities and food access. Prices for staples are stable or declining relative to recent months, and lower than February of last year, when prices were exceptionally high. However, staple food prices remain above the five-year average. In five markets with data available for February 2013 – February 2018 (Gombe, Ibadan, Lagos, Maiduguri, and Saminaka), maize prices are 23 – 35 percent above the five-year average, while sorghum prices are 16 – 68 percent above average. When compared to the 2013 – 2016 February average, these ranges are significantly higher: 48 – 74 percent above average for maize, and 50 – 122 percent above average for sorghum.

    Macroeconomic situation: Staple price increases are partly attributable to the depreciation of the Nigerian naira (NGN) in recent years. The naira has fallen in value against the U.S. dollar (USD) by more than half since 2013, from NGN 156/USD in February 2013 to NGN 358/USD in February 2018. However, the Nigerian economy has begun to stabilize, recording three consecutive quarters of growth. Foreign reserves are increasing, from USD 39.2 billion at the beginning of the year to USD 42.8 billion in February 2018. The naira (NGN) has also remained stable relative to the U.S. dollar (USD) for several months and has regained some value against the West African franc (XOF).


    Dry season agricultural activities: Dry season cultivation is average in most parts of the country, particularly for maize and vegetables such as pepper, onion, tomatoes, and leafy greens (lettuces, cabbage, etc.) The Anchor Borrowers’ Program, supported by the Central Bank of Nigeria, is providing inputs and financial assistance to smallholder farmers across the country, which has helped increase their yields. Rice cultivation along the major floodplains has increased in recent years and is likely to be greater than last year.

    In northern parts of the country, early rainfall events in irrigable areas prior to the onset of the rainy season has negatively impacted crop development, particularly for vegetables. In northeastern states, dry season sorghum, vegetables, and fishing activities are substantially below average. Fishing along the Lake Chad basin, an important local livelihoods activity, remains restricted by military policy intended to curb insurgent activities.


    Insurgency and communal conflict: Boko Haram has been active as an insurgent group since 2009, mostly operating in northern and central Nigeria. Clashes between Boko Haram and the multinational joint task force account for most of the violence in the northeast and have resulted in thousands of fatalities and millions of people displaced. The recent IOM-DTM assessment conducted between January 22 and February 2, 2018 indicates that there are currently more than 1.78 million IDPs across the six northeastern states, with more than 1.36 million of these in Borno State. The total IDP population increased by about 5 percent compared to the previous round conducted in December 2017. From March 6-12, 2018, a total of 7,063 arrivals, 1,624 departures and 79 transit movements were recorded in various locations, mainly in Borno State and parts of Adamawa State. The main triggers of movements include poor living conditions (33 percent), voluntary relocation (26 percent), and improved security (17 percent). Other reasons are ongoing conflict (10 percent), fear of attack (9 percent), military operations (4 percent), and conflict with herdsmen (1 percent). During the same period, more than 2,000 refugees from neighboring Niger and Chad arrived in the northeast. Meanwhile, the military has reopened the Maiduguri – Bama – Banki road to motorized civilian traffic, for the first time in four years. However, military escort is still a necessity to travel to Bama and Banki from Maiduguri.

    The persisting Boko Haram conflict and cattle rustling activities in the northern states have led to intense migration of pastoralists towards the southern parts of the country. This is exacerbated by the prolonged dry spells in the extreme north of the country and bordering parts of Niger and Cameroon, leading to increased livestock population and competition for pastoral resources, and intense conflicts. This has led to escalation of the conflict from the central states of Kaduna, Benue, Plateau, Nasarawa, and Kogi to the southern parts of Nigeria, with an increasing number of fatalities. Similar incidences are also recorded in Zamfara State, in northwestern Nigeria.

    Cameroonian refugees: A rapid assessment by Caritas Nigeria conducted January 17-20, 2018 of more than 20,000 refugees

     from Cameroon in affected communities of northern Cross River State (Ogoja, Ikom, Boki, and Obanliku Local Government Areas (LGAs)), indicated that the refugees from Cameroon are dispersed within the host communities at a central location within each LGA, where they were easily accessible for registration, information dissemination, and distribution of assistance. From the registration centers in Ikom, Etung, Boki and Obanliku LGAs, a total of 22,215 refugees had been registered, though the ongoing influx was reported to be at least 20 people per day at each of the centers as of January 20th. Priority needs of these refugees include food, shelter, clothing, NFIs, WASH, and medicines. UNHCR, ICRC, SEMA, and other actors are providing limited and basic assistance to the refugees. Additional refugees are expected, which is likely to stretch the limited assistance available. There was also a large influx of refugees in Akamkpa LGA, in the Southern Senatorial District, Oban Corridor of the Cross River National Park. However, there are currently no statistics on the population of the asylum seekers in the area, and no official assistance yet provided as of end of February.

    Cholera and other water related diseases: A cholera outbreak is ongoing in three wards of Kukawa LGA (Doro, Baga, and Kukawa), in Borno State. Between 13th and 28th February 2018, over 600 Acute Watery Diarrhea (AWD) or suspected cholera cases have been reported by the Borno State Ministry of Health in conjunction with health sector partners. Over 320 cases have been reported in Doro ward, 229 cases in Baga ward, and 56 cases in Kukawa ward, including three deaths. A cholera epidemic was declared on March 8, 2018. Kukawa LGA is a major commercial hub situated near Lake Chad and bordering Chad and Cameroon, with a pre-conflict population of about 150,000 people. Cholera outbreak and Lassa fever have also been reported in six LGAs of Bauchi State, including Gamawa, Ganjuwa, Toro, Darazo, Bauchi, and Tafawa Balewa, with nine deaths due to cholera and five deaths from Lassa fever. About 324 cases of cholera and 44 cases of Lassa fever have been recorded across the affected LGAs.

    The persisting Hepatitis E outbreak is slowing down in Rann of Kala Balge LGA, Borno State, following a robust response from Health sector and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector partners. Only 30 cases were reported in February, and the situation continues to be monitored closely to prevent spread of the outbreak to other areas. Response activities are ongoing in collaboration with WASH partners, including risk communication and hygiene promotion.

    Conflict-affected populations across northeast Nigeria remain at significant risk of epidemic-prone diseases, such as cholera, measles, meningitis, and viral hemorrhagic fevers (VHF) such as Lassa and yellow fever. Meanwhile, endemic malaria accounts for 50 percent of the total consultations in the Early Warning and Alert Disease Response and Surveillance system (EWARS). In addition to malaria, acute respiratory infections (ARIs) and watery diarrhea comprise the top three leading causes of illness among IDPs, along with high levels of severe acute malnutrition. More than 40,000 children are at risk of dying due to the combined threat of severe acute malnutrition and medical complications, within a context of high malaria prevalence and frequent population movement.


    The most likely scenario for the February to September 2018 period is based on the following national level assumptions:

    Seasonal Progress

    ·         Dry season harvest: An increasing number of farming households are engaged in the dry season cultivation due to government support through the Anchor Borrowers’ Program. Aggregate harvests for cereals such as maize and rice will be average to above average. However, vegetable harvests will be below average in most areas due to the early rainfall recorded across areas cultivated. Dry season harvests will be well below average in the northeastern states affected by conflict.

    ·         Onset of the 2018 rainy season: The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) recently launched its 2018 seasonal rainfall forecast, indicating that the 2018 rainy season is likely to start on-time throughout the country, beginning in the bimodal zone during early March and later in central areas during April/May, and moving to the areas further north in June as the inter-tropical front (ITF) moves northward. However, an early onset of rainfall is expected in localized areas in Calabar, Eket, Ado-Ekiti, Akure, Lafia, Bauchi, Kaduna, and Sokoto States. Rainfall is expected to cease in late September over the northwest and continue until December in the southern areas. A normal cessation is expected for most parts of the country, except for localized areas in Jos, Ibi, and some parts of the southern areas. However, it is

    likely to be prolonged over Warri, Ondo, Ibadan and Lagos. Rainfall levels are expected to be average in most areas with minimum amount range of 400 to 800mm in the northern states while the southern states will have a maximum amount of about 3000mm. Dry spells and flooding will occur normally across the country. The frontline states (close to the Sahel in the extreme northern areas) will likely experience short dry spells between June and July, immediately after the onset of the season. Similarly, other major rainfall forecast agencies such as CPC-NOAA are indicating normal rainfall onset and average rainfall estimates in most areas across the country.

    Macroeconomic situation

    ·         Currency stability: The value of the naira (NGN) is expected to remain stable or appreciate slightly against the dollar (USD) and the West African franc (XOF). The government is expected to stabilize the naira through direct intervention with foreign reserves. Similarly, the restricted access to foreign exchange for rice importation, which annually comprises a large amount of foreign exchange, will also support the appreciation of the local currency.

    ·         Cross border trade: Reduced staple food production in neighboring countries and a favorable CFA to naira exchange rate will lead to increased food exports from Nigeria. This will increase during the Ramadan period between mid-May and mid-June, particularly for millet and maize. Similarly, livestock imports from neighboring countries such as Niger, Chad, and Cameroon will increase towards Tabaski (August 21-23). The reopening of the Maiduguri to Banki road through Bama, which is a major cross-border trade route, will also lead to increased trade flows, although at below-average levels.

    ·         Staple food prices: Demand for food will increase towards the Ramadan period starting in May, particularly for millet and rice, increasing prices. Staple food prices will increase at a greater rate during the lean season period from July through September, when household stocks are at their lowest levels. Staple food demand and prices will increase and remain higher in the conflict-affected areas of the northeast, relative to other parts of the country. Prices will remain lower than last year, but higher than average across the country throughout the analysis period.


    ·         Labor demand, supply and wages: Labor demand will increase as the dry season harvest peaks in April and May. Demand will likely be average in most areas due to the dry season harvest, land clearing, and planting activities, though vegetable harvests will likely be below average, slightly impacting labor demand. Main season planting will begin in June/July, seasonally increasing labor demand and wages. In August and September, weeding and fertilizer application activities will be underway, engaging further labor.

    ·         Conflict/Insecurity: The analysis assumes that the level of Boko Haram-related conflict will remain similar to the current situation across the northeastern States. Sporadic attacks by the insurgents and intense military operations will continue in the area. However, the level of attacks by the insurgents will likely decrease somewhat during the rainy season, when movements become relatively difficult. Intense farmer/herder conflict in the central States during the growing season will also be expected.

    ·         As seen in recent months, some displaced people will return to their original homesteads, while others will move to major urban areas in the region, particularly towards the onset of the growing season in May/June 2018. Intense military operations in the northeast will also trigger more population displacement within the region. The onset of the rainy season will likely escalate the herder/farmer conflict in several areas, due to restricted grazing areas.

    ·         Transhumance, livestock conditions and pasture availability: Pastoral resources will continue to deteriorate through June in the northern areas, increasing the rate of pastoral movement towards the southern areas through May. This will be exacerbated by the persisting conflict in the northeast, cattle rustling activities in the northwest, and herder/farmer conflict in the central states. With the onset of the rainy season in the northern areas, pastoralists will return to their homesteads around July, when pastoral resources become established and available. Favorable rainfall amounts during the growing season will provide opportunities for adequate pastoral resources in most areas, leading to good livestock body conditions during the growing season.

    ·         Lean season and availability of household food stocks: The lean season will begin normally in April/May in the southern areas, and in July in the northern areas. Household stocks of staple foodstuffs will decline normally through the period, and most households will resort to markets with typical timing to access food. The lean season will begin earlier in areas affected by conflict, particularly in the northeast. The lean season will be slightly tempered by the Ramadan food gifts during May/June, when the government and local communities will increase food gifts to vulnerable households.

    ·         Flooding: The normal onset of the season in February in the southern areas and June in the extreme northern areas, and normal spatio-temporal distribution of the rainfall across the country will lead to normal flooding in most areas. However, water releases from local dams along major rivers will lead to abnormal flooding in localized areas. This will be exacerbated by water releases from neighboring countries such as Cameroon and Niger during the peak rainy season in August/September.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    During the postharvest period, most poor households throughout most of the country are consuming their own production across the country. Dry season harvests are also increasing access to food. Most households are engaged in normal income-earning opportunities, such as dry season cultivation and harvests, land clearing activities, and petty trading. Others are engaged in casual labor and construction work to earn income. Coupled with normal livelihood strategies such as cash crop sales, livestock sales, and market food purchases, most poor households will face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes through May 2018.

    As the lean season peaks, poor households outside the northeast impacted by communal conflict in the central states including Kaduna, Benue, Plateau, and Taraba; cattle rustling and dry spells – in Zamfara, Katsina, Jigawa, Bauchi and Kano States; flooding and farmer/pastoralist conflict in Benue and Taraba States have substantially impacted negatively on main harvest across the affected areas, leading to limited food production level. These households are yet to recover from the impacts of the floods and conflict and have limited own production from the main harvest. They will resort to markets earlier than usual, as food prices are elevated. Thus, they will only be able to meet basic food needs and will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) until the main harvest in October 2018. However, a small proportion of these affected populations remain displaced and are unable to engage in their normal livelihood activities, have limited income earning opportunities and are reliant on atypical labor work. They are likely to consume less preferred foods during the lean season and will be unable to meet basic food needs, while others are facing wide food consumption gaps with high levels of acute malnutrition.

    Poor households in parts of Borno and Adamawa States who had poor or no main season harvests and have restricted access to markets, livelihoods activities, and assistance are facing large food consumption gaps with elevated levels of acute malnutrition, and will remain in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) acute food insecurity through at least May 2018. Humanitarian actors have scaled-up their response in Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa States, reaching about 2.1 million people with food assistance on average between March and December 2017. Livelihoods assistance has also been extensive, reaching 1.2 million people per month on average within the same period. Food assistance has been maintained through early 2018, reaching over 2.6 million people across the three worst-affected states. This is partly attributable to increased access to areas that were formerly difficult to access by the humanitarian actors, and liberation of more areas by the joint military operations. Thus, households in relatively accessible areas with improved humanitarian assistance are facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3), while others are almost entirely dependent on humanitarian assistance and are facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3!). However, in areas less affected by the Boko Haram conflict across the three northeastern states, many households are able to engage in below-average livelihood activities. Where markets are functioning, many are facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes through May 2018. With limited income-earning opportunities and likely unsustainable food assistance in areas worst affected by the insurgency, the seasonal increase in staple food prices during the lean season and restricted market and humanitarian access during the rainy season will lead most households that are partly or entirely dependent on humanitarian assistance to face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) acute food insecurity outcomes through at least September 2018. Areas where populations are affected by complete loss of livelihoods activities and who remain inaccessible to humanitarian actors are likely facing similar or worse food security outcomes relative to adjoining areas.

    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.

    Figures Current food security outcomes, February 2018

    Figure 1

    Current food security outcomes, February 2018

    Source: FEWS NET

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 2

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Northeast Nigeria, projected food security outcomes, February to May 2018

    Figure 3

    Northeast Nigeria, projected food security outcomes, February to May 2018

    Source: FEWS NET

    Northeast Nigeria, projected food security outcomes, June to September 2018

    Figure 4

    Northeast Nigeria, projected food security outcomes, June to September 2018

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1.  Market functioning and road access, February 2018

    Figure 5

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2.  Escalation and number of conflict events involving herders and farmers in 2017

    Figure 6

    Figure 2

    Source: ACLED

    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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