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Restricted access to parts of the Northeast contribute to Emergency food insecurity

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Nigeria
  • June 2016 - January 2017
Restricted access to parts of the Northeast contribute to Emergency food insecurity

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Conflict in Northeast Nigeria has left a significant portion of the population without access to adequate food, water, and health services. A “nutrition emergency” has been declared in Borno State by the Nigerian Ministry of Health and information from recent rapid assessments, although limited and not statistically representative, also raises the possibility that a Famine (IPC Phase 5) could be occurring in the worst affected and less accessible pockets of the state.

    • The Boko Haram conflict and atypically high staple food prices have substantially restricted food access for most households across large areas in the Lake Chad region. Diminishing community and humanitarian support, below average harvest stocks and restricted income earning opportunities will continue to limit food access in this region. Consequently, affected households will continue to have difficulties meeting their minimal food needs and will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity, depending on the zone, through January 2017. Several LGAs with proportionally high IDP populations are expected to be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) acute food insecurity.

    • The recent decision of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to float the naira against the US dollar will likely lead to further depreciation of the naira. The inflation rate increased from 13.7 percent to 15.6 percent between April and May. Consequently, prices of local and imported staples such as rice, millet, maize and sorghum will continue to rise beyond normal levels, limiting purchasing power and food access through the lean season period until harvests in October.

    • Most households outside of the Northeast are engaging in normal income-generating activities, early green harvests as well as livestock and cash crop sales. Some market dependent poor households are unable to meet non-food needs as their food stocks diminish due to the depreciating naira, high food prices, flooding along major floodplains and low purchasing power. Most households will continue to face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity, although some poor households will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through the end of the lean season.

    Current Situation

    The growing season has begun normally in the southern states in February/March and in the central states in April/May.  In the northern areas, the onset of the season is in June/July and is also beginning normally. Parts of the frontline states in the North at the periphery of the Sahel region are still expecting the onset of the rainy season on time in July; this includes Borno, Yobe, Jigawa, Katsina, Kano, Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Gombe, and Bauchi states. There are also areas where the season started earlier than normal by 10 to 20 days including localized parts of the northwest such as Kebbi, Niger, Kaduna, Zamfara, Katsina, Sokoto and Kwara states.

    In the southern areas farmers are engaged in weeding and fertilizer application activities as well as the early green harvest of maize and yams. Similarly, early green harvest of groundnut, maize and potato is also underway in the central states and the rice harvest is underway along major floodplains. Planting of staples such as millet and maize as well as legumes (groundnut, cowpea) is underway in localized areas in the north.  Agricultural wage labor activities are providing typical levels of income for poor households during the cultivation season in most parts of the country.

    Poor households across the country are experiencing a somewhat more severe lean season at this time of the consumption year. Although normal activities including early green harvests, Ramadan gifts, labor opportunities, and wild food gathering are contributing to household food access, restrictions on rice imports, above average staple cereal food prices, and reduced household purchasing power have worsened household food access, particularly for urban poor households. Additionally, many poor households have exhausted their own production stocks heading into the lean season which will go normally from July to September. 

    Seasonal price increases have been observed for most cereals on surplus and deficit markets across the country (FEWS NET). These seasonal increases are on top of price increases driven by the depreciating Naira (Figure 2). Millet, a major staple in surplus production areas in the north has increased by about 56, 97, 66 and 83 percent on Damaturu, Dawanau, Maiduguri and Potiskum markets, respectively, in May compared to 2015. The price of maize, an important staple food and raw material for poultry feeds increased by about 107, 59, 83, 102 and 119 percent on Biu, Bodija, Kaura, Mubi and Potiskum markets, respectively since 2015. Similarly, the price of gari, a major staple in the southern areas is also rising; white gari increased by about 117, 54, 127 and 233 percent on Aba, Dandume, Bodija, and Maiduguri, respectively relative to same time last year. The prices of major staple cereals – millet, maize and sorghum-recorded price increases between 43 to 83 percent when compared to both two and five year averages across monitored markets.   

    Boko Haram related civil insecurity persists in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states in the Northeast.  The June IOM/NEMA displacement tracking matrix (DTM) reports that over 87 percent of IDPs are displaced due to the insurgency accounting for 1.8 million people.  Over 77 percent of all IDPs come from Borno state where many local government areas (LGAs) have limited or no accessibility due to military campaigns. Reports from inaccessible LGAs indicate there could be extreme food security outcomes. The number of attacks and bombings has declined in Adamawa and Yobe states relative to Borno and the total IDP population has declined from April to June, mostly due to the return of IDPs to newly accessible LGAs within Borno, including Damboa, Magumeri, Askira, Uba and Chibok. Additional returns to Damaturu and Gujba LGAs in Yobe state have also been ongoing.   Localized and sporadic attacks still persist in Borno and Yobe states with recent attacks carried out in Yunusari, Gulani, Bama, Gwoza and Jere LGAs. Suicide attacks resulting in casualties happened in both June and July in Maiduguri and Damboa.

    Market and trade routes are becoming relatively more accessible in much of the Northeast region. Roads from Maiduguri to Damaturu and to Biu are now accessible with only some disruptions and checkpoints. This includes a major trucking route in the region (Maiduguri- Damaturu). The road from Maiduguri to Damboa has also re-opened, although it remains accessible only with military escort. Maiduguri to Gamboru through Dikwa is also recently opened up and is more accessible. Similarly, major urban markets including Maiduguri, Biu, Potiskum, Damaturu, Mubi, and Yola are more functional relative to previous months and are adequately supplied. Most semi-urban markets are functioning at below-average levels, while rural markets continue to be significantly impacted. Cross border trade activities along Yobe, Adamawa and Borno state borders with Niger, Chad and Cameroon remain disrupted.

    Most IDPs and their host communities are vulnerable to food insecurity headed into the lean season. There is both limited and untargeted humanitarian support in the region and limited ability for host communities to continue supporting IDPs through the lean season.  The federal government’s Food and Strategic Reserve Department released 10,000 metric tons of maize to NEMA in April for onward distribution to IDPs in the 6 Northeastern states based on the level of vulnerability of populations across the states. The breakdown of grains allocation is: 3,390 metric tons for Borno, 2,100 metric tons each for Yobe and Adamawa, 900 metric tons for Taraba, and 750 metric tons each for Bauchi and Gombe. This will provide some relief from the current high food prices that are expected to keep rising through the lean season. State governments in the northern areas are also providing daily feeding centers for the vulnerable households during the Ramadan period. Similarly, Dufil Prima Foods is targeting 3 million vulnerable Muslims across the country during Ramadan with a meal each day.


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

    • Onset and evolution of the rainy season in 2016: The rainy season has started normally in the south (March/April) and central states (April /May) and will likely be fully established in June/July as usual in the northern areas. The growing season is expected to progress as usual with average rainfall levels and normal spatial and temporal distribution across the country (IRI, ECMWF, NOAA). Some dry spells as well as above-average rainfall are expected in localized areas across the country.  The rainy season will peak normally during July to September and will likely end normally during October in the north and November/December in the south.
    • Main 2016 harvests: With the expected normal start and end of the growing season in most areas, the main harvest is expected to begin normally in October in most parts of the country. Harvest will be average to above average, with the exception of some areas of the Northeast.
    • Main Harvest in Conflict- Affected Areas: Below-average harvests are expected due to on-going conflict and flooding in accessible areas of the Northeast.  In areas where populations remain displaced there will be no cultivation for the 2016 main harvest.  
    • Flooding: Rainfall will peak as usual from July to September across the country resulting in normal level of flooding in localized areas in the coastal states and along major floodplains of Rivers Niger and Benue. The collapse of and releases from local and regional dams that regularly occurs during the rainy season will cause further floods resulting in damage to infrastructure, farmlands and displacement of populations across the country.
    • Pasture and water availability: Pasture and water resources will deplete faster than usual in most areas across the country, particularly in the south due to increased livestock populations moving earlier than normal to avoid conflict in the north. Many areas in the grazing lands of the central states including Kaduna, Plateau, Benue, Taraba states are inaccessible due to farmer/pastoralists conflict. Pasture and water resources in the south and accessible areas in central states will be exhausted earlier than usual, even as pastoral resources improve as the rainy season begins across the country through July.
    • Inputs access for main and dry season activities: Inputs such as fertilizer and improved seeds will be accessed through government and market sources for both main and dry season activities. The government plans to support food production with programs for improved input subsidies and supply through financing programs targeted to production areas. This support, however, will likely be delayed as usual during the growing season and most farmers will access inputs through the open market at high prices. The depreciation of the naira and reduced purchasing power of households will further limit inputs access, particularly for imported fertilizer.
    • Dry season activities: Dry season production will begin normally in December and will likely be average to above average. In most areas, the expected normal onset of the season as well as normal rainfall will lead to water availability in local ponds and rivers allowing fish yields to be normal. Households affected by the conflict and able to access land in the Northeast will likely engage in off-season activities at below average levels.
    • Labor wages, supply, and demand: Labor demand will increase normally during the growing season across the country for land preparation and planting in the north and weeding and fertilizer application in the south. This will follow normal seasonal trends and will peak during the harvest beginning in October across the country. Wages will be within normal levels in most areas, except the Northeast where the on-going conflict will cause displaced populations to provide an above-average labor supply causing wages to be below average.
    • Food prices: Staple food prices including cereals and tubers will continue to increase and will peak during the lean season between July and September. Prices will decline but will remain above average during the harvest from October to at least January due to continued inflation. Food prices will also increase during Ramadan, Tabaski and Christmas, in June, September and December, respectively.
    • Livestock supply, demand, prices: Livestock supply and demand is within normal levels in most areas across the country.  There will be a slight increase in demand during Ramadan in June/July, with other peaks during Tabaski in September and Christmas in December. Livestock prices will thus remain favorable for most pastoralists during the scenario period with the exception of those in the Lake Chad region.  Conflict and restricted access in the North has limited market functioning and diminished livestock body conditions as the military restricts the sale of livestock as well as access to pasture and water resources. Decline in household purchasing power will also impact demand for livestock in the region. 
    • Exchange rate (against FCFA and against USD): The value of the naira relative to other foreign currencies will continue to depreciate. The devaluation of the Naira on June 20th will most likely worsen the trend in scenario period.  Increased demand for foreign currency (USD; CFA) will put further pressure on the Naira as livestock imports increase for Tabaski in September and as there are more international expenditures related to performing the Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca during August/September.
    • Cross-border trade: Trade activities will improve during the consumption year as conflict within the Lake Chad region declines and as trade routes between the states become accessible. There will be increased regional demand for staples and cash crops due to export parity prices although trade activities within the region is mainly informal.
    • Boko Haram conflict and displacement: For the purpose of this scenario, it is assumed Boko Haram related conflict in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states in the Northeast will continue to decline throughout the scenario period, particularly in Adamawa and Yobe states, given the ongoing counter insurgency activities by the Multinational Joint Taskforce. Many IDPs are returning to their homesteads in these two states. However, for Borno state, the epicenter of the Boko Haram conflict, there may be an influx of IDPs from newly liberated areas and from neighboring countries and many IDPs returning to LGA headquarters with limited resources.
    • Areas of limited accessibility:  In areas where there is extremely limited or no access due to on-going operations between the military and Boko Haram fighters, food security outcomes are expected to be similar to areas that have been recently liberated.  Limited reports from these areas indicate that there is active fighting and almost complete displacement or capture of local populations.   
    • Pastoralist conflict and transhumant movement: As the growing season peaks from June to September, farmer/pastoralists resource based conflict in the south and in central states including Kaduna, Nasarawa, Benue, Taraba and Plateau will persist. Similarly, cattle rustling activities in the northwest and central states will continue to restrict pastoral movement. Conflict and restriction will lead to loss of livestock and diminishing body conditions thus reducing income sources for pastoralists. Regional livestock movement towards Nigeria will also be limited due to the persisting conflict and reduced Nigerian purchasing power.
    • Bird flu: The outbreak of avian influenza will persist across the affected states, particularly in the central states. More people will engage in ad-hoc poultry production towards Ramadan from June/July, Tabaski in September and Christmas in December which will increase bird and egg movement across the country. This will increase the risk of the flu spreading more widely potentially impacting commercial poultry production and households doing labor in poultry value chains will likely earn less income.
    • Poultry demand (national and regional) and impacts on maize markets: Poultry demand will continue to increase towards Ramadan in June leading to increased demand for Nigerian maize both within and out of the country. Maize demand towards the neighboring countries will also increase during the Ramadan period. The demand by poultry industry will persist through September during the holidays. Household demand will also follow similar trend within and out of the country. In October, demand and price of maize will normally decline due to the harvest.
    • Evolution of Nutrition during outlook period: During the outlook period the prevalence of malnutrition will remain at seasonally normal levels in most areas across the country. Malnutrition will peak due to the rainy and lean seasons between July and September and will begin to decline at the beginning of harvest in October.  Exceptions are in the Northeast where conflict will contribute to consistently elevated prevalence GAM rates.  UNICEF, MSF and ALIMA MUAC screening data in several IDP camps and LGAs in Borno State meet WHO thresholds for critical levels of malnutrition while surveys from WFP, ACF and UNICEF around Maiduguri and in Yobe State show serious levels.   Areas of limited accessibility with no available data are expected to have similar or worse rates of acute malnutrition, especially as the lean season progresses.
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Most households in the country will access food during the scenario period with the early green harvests of yams, maize, potatoes and groundnut through September, normal lean season reliance on wild foods, and the main harvest (cereals, tubers, legumes) in October.  These households will be able to use normal livelihood strategies such as cash crop sales, casual labor work, livestock sales, consumption of their own stocks and market purchase to access income and food normally.  Outside of the Northeast, most poor households will continue to face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity through January 2017. Above-average staple cereal food prices and low household purchasing power are limiting food access for some households, particularly poor households that are more reliant on market purchase during the lean season, across the country. During the lean season these households will resort to atypical coping to meet non-food expenditure and will be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity until the harvest in October.

    Insurgency related to Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region continues to decline relative to previous months as the multinational joint task force intensify their operations and continue to liberate more areas that were previously inaccessible (Council on Foreign Relations). Some liberated communities have moved to urban areas to access humanitarian support and protection while others are returning to their homesteads, particularly in Adamawa and Yobe states. However, the negative impacts of the insurgency persist and disrupted trade routes, restricted food flow, atypically high food prices, limited humanitarian access and restricted market activity continue to limit household food availability and access. The lean season will be prolonged and more difficult for the conflict affected households in the Northeast.  From June to September, most areas in the Lake Chad region will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity as households are only marginally able to meet their food needs with irreversible coping strategies including sale of productive assets such as farmland and female livestock. Some IDP households, in parts of Borno state worst affected by the conflict where there is limited accessibility and restricted movement, are facing larger food consumption gaps in their diet and these areas will face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) within the same period. Recent assessment data and monitoring reports, though limited and not statistically representative, indicate that a Famine (IPC Phase 5) could be occurring in the worst affected and less accessible pockets of Borno State.  

    During October, the main harvest will begin across the country and food prices will decline seasonally which will increase access to food. Although prices will remain above-average due to the Naira devaluation, most areas will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity from October to January 2017. Households in other parts of southern Borno, southern Adamawa and western Yobe less affected by the conflict and engaged in closer to normal livelihood activities will have access to their own production and will minimally meet food needs only and will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity through January 2017. Displaced populations and households in conflict areas in parts of Borno, Yobe and northern Adamawa states, however, will continue to experience significant difficulty meeting their basic food needs as they are unable to engage in normal livelihoods activities. These households will continue to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through January 2017.  IDP populations in areas of limited accessibility movements will likely continue to be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) acute food insecurity as the conflict continues to force displacement and security restrictions.


    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes, June 2016

    Figure 2

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes, June 2016 - focus in on northeast Nigeria

    Figure 3

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1.  Northeast Nigeria market and trade route activity – week of June 13, 2016

    Figure 4

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2. Staple food prices and value of Naira (NGN)

    Figure 5

    Figure 2

    Source: FEWS NET

    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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