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Continued Boko Haram conflict in northeast increasing displacement and food assistance needs

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Nigeria
  • June 2019 - January 2020
Continued Boko Haram conflict in northeast increasing displacement and food assistance needs

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected to remain widespread throughout northeast Nigeria through early 2020. Outcomes in inaccessible areas are likely similar or may be worse than neighboring accessible areas, and there remains a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) in these areas. Extreme levels of acute food insecurity, including Famine (IPC Phase 5) are also possible in a worst-case scenario in which conflict shifts and significantly restricts humanitarian access and household movement.

    • Households affected by conflicts and banditry in the northwest and central parts of Nigeria are also of high concern. In localized areas, affected households have lost some typical sources of food and income and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are likely among these households through September. With the main harvest in October most households are expected to have increased income and food access, except worst affected households in Zamfara state who will likely remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through January 2020.

    • The recent Cadre Harmonise (June 2019) confirmed that an elevated number of households continue to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse acute food insecurity and humanitarian needs remain high for the more than 1.7 million IDPs and poorest host populations.

    • Displaced persons within Greater Maiduguri and surrounding areas, particularly those in camps, remain accessible to humanitarian actors and are primarily dependent on humanitarian food assistance and limited income earning opportunities. The protracted conflict is now occurring in a fewer number of areas compared to previous years; however, the frequency and intensity of attacks remains high.


    Current Situation

    Staple food prices: Maize, millet, sorghum, and rice, consumed mainly in the northern areas, as well as tubers such as yam and gari, consumed mainly in the southern areas, are readily available on most monitored markets. Prices of staples remain stable or are slightly declining across most markets. Prices are lower than last year, though higher than the five-year average. Staple prices are lower in conflict affected areas including northwest and central states due mainly to lower demand (Figure 1). However, prices are relatively higher in northeast Nigeria due to substantially below average harvest, low market supplies, and high transaction costs.

    Labor and income sources: Households are engaged in normal livelihood activities and earning normal income levels across the country, except in the Northeast and other conflict-affected areas. Agriculture related labor activities such as land clearing, planting, and weeding are the main labor sources. Others are engaged in construction work, petty trading, and water vending to earn income. Cash crop sales are normal, though prices are lower than last year for groundnuts and cowpeas. However, livestock prices are within average level, and the livestock-to-cereal terms of trade are relatively favorable to the pastoralist relative to last year.

    Market and household food stocks: Most markets are well supplied with staple foods including maize, millet, and sorghum. Traders have substantial staple and cash crops stocks in their warehouses. Similarly, with the anticipated normal onset of the rainy season, traders and farmers will likely release more stocks to meet farming expenditure for inputs such as seeds, chemicals, and fertilizer, increasing market supplies. Household stocks have declined normally towards the July start of the lean season. However, most households are still consuming own production across the country due to the favorable main harvest during the last growing season.

    Macro-economic issues: The naira exchange rate remains stable relative to last year. The central bank of Nigeria (CBN) has injected a total of $39.9 billion US dollars in 2018 to stabilize the naira relative to other foreign currencies. The price of crude oil tends to be on the increase from $62/barrel in December 2018 to $64.19/barrel in February 2019, though it declined to $60.05/barrel in January 2019. Nigeria is exporting about 1.88 million barrels of crude oil per day. Nigeria’s foreign exchange reserves rose to a five-month high in March as high oil prices and crude oil production continued to support government efforts to boost reserves and stimulating growth. The foreign reserves rose above $44 billion in March.

    Northeast Nigeria – Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states: The recurring attacks by insurgents, persistent insecurity, and military operations have restricted movement in the northeast of Nigeria. Similarly, farming, trade, transhumance, and other livelihood activities have been affected significantly, limiting access to basic services. Humanitarian food assistance to the northeast has declined during the recent year. For example, between March and April 2017 over 3.68 million people in Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa states were reached with humanitarian assistance and this increased to over 4.84 million people in 2018 within the same period. However, during March and April 2019 only 2.61 million people received assistance across the three states. A substantial population is still in need of assistance, and others remain inaccessible. Funding gaps remain a major constraint to adequate provision of assistance in the northeast of Nigeria.

    Since January 2019, over 1.7 million people remain displaced in Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states. Since the beginning of the year, there have been significant new displacements/new arrivals from hard-to-reach areas, with over 60,000 arrivals reported so far. With the continuous influx of displaced people, especially in Borno, reception centers and IDP camps are overstretched. In December, around 20,000 people arrived in Teachers Village, a camp in Maiduguri, raising its population to 30,000 people. The site has a maximum hosting capacity of between 8,500 to 10,000 displaced persons. The influx has overstretched resources, especially shelter, and thousands of people sleep in the open. It is likely that the food security situation would be worse in the absence of humanitarian assistance in IDP camps and settlements.

    Northwest and central states of Nigeria impacted by the farmer/herder, banditry, and communal conflict: The insecurity in the central and northwest states also persists. Conflict related to farmer/pastoralist and communal conflicts are limited to localized areas and are taking place in the central states including Taraba, Benue, Plateau, Niger, and Kaduna states. Kidnapping, armed banditry, and cattle rustling are common in Katsina, Zamfara, and Sokoto states. Dry season harvest and other off-season activities remain below average in localized affected areas. In some areas main harvests were either looted or burnt by the bandits. The situation in Zamfara has escalated to neighboring Sokoto state including Rabah, Kebbe, Isa, Goronyo, Dange Shuni, Tureta, Tangaza, and Sabon Birni LGAs. The Nigerian military has intensified their operations in worst affected areas in Zamfara and Katsina states against the armed bandits and kidnappers.

    Some affected communities in the central and northwestern states remain displaced as new communities are attacked. The intense attacks on communities have triggered population displacement to city centers and other neighboring communities. An IOM rapid assessment and published on June 11, 2019 covering Katsina, Sokoto, and Zamfara states found that an estimated 66,900 IDPs are currently displaced across the three states due to the armed banditry activities (Table 2). Zamfara state recorded 38,113 IDPs, and is the most impacted with 13 out of the 14 LGAs across the state that have been affected with the ongoing conflict. Katsina and Sokoto states recorded hosting 16,257 and 12,527 IDPs, respectively, during the same period. There are over 20,000 displaced persons from Katsina, Sokoto, and Zamfara states who crossed over to Niger republic. Ground information indicates that the IDPs are in need of humanitarian assistance, and food was the major priority reported by those living in camps and host communities. Most of the IDPs are living within host communities and makeshift shelters while some are living in camps.

    The major livelihood activities among households affected by the conflict in northwestern and central states have been substantially impacted. Traders have been evading affected areas due to fear of attacks, limiting trade flows and, consequently, market supplies have declined in some worse affected areas such as Batsari, Safana, and Danmusa LGAs in Katsina state and most local governments in Zamfara state. Shinkafi market, a major cross border town in Zamfara state, is currently functioning between 30 to 40 percent relative to normal while Dandume market in Katsina state is functioning lower by 15 to 25 percent relative to normal (Figure 3).The usual transhumance has also reduced substantially as pastoralists avoid areas of persist conflict and cattle rustling. Localized affected communities in Zamfara state including Kaura Namoda, Shinkafi, Maru, Maradun, Birnin Magaji, and Zurmi LGAs are also reportedly unable to engage in crop cultivation. Similarly, in Dandume, Batsari, Safana, Dan Musa and Sabuwa LGAs in Katsina, cultivation of tall growing crops such as maize, millet, and sorghum are restricted within distances of one to two kilometers from the city and village centers due to fear of attacks by the bandits. Only short growing crops such as rice, cowpeas, groundnuts, and sweet potatoes are cultivated, limiting locally staple cereal crop production. According to FEWS NET’s field informant in Dandume LGA in Katsina state a significant percentage of large-scale staple cereal producers (10 hectares and above) and about one third of the small-scale farmers across the LGA have abandoned their farmlands. 

    Table 2: Displaced population across the affected LGAs in northwestern part of Nigeria

    Zamfara state

    Katsina state

    Sokoto state











    Sabon Birni










    Dan Musa


    Other LGAs




    Other LGAs


    State Total


    Other LGAs


    State Total


    State Total


    Source: IOM Nigeria

















    Affected households remain displaced and are mainly dependent on community support, limited government assistance and market for food. Those dependent on markets are resorting to intense labor work such as construction, land preparation, firewood sales, water hawking and other menial jobs to earn income and access food. However, there is no indication at this point that affected areas are widespread and the impact is estimated to be the highest on a limited local level.


    The most likely scenario for June 2019 to January 2020 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Macro-economic issues:
      • Exchange rate: It is expected that the CBN will sustain the intervention into the interbank and parallel market by providing a monthly amount of about $210 million dollars through at least January 2020 and the naira will likely appreciate. In August, the demand for forex should increase for those traveling for Hajj to Saudi Arabia and likely decline in December due to remittances from households travelling home for Christmas. Both the interbank and parallel exchange rates of the naira relative to the dollar have indicated an appreciating trend during the first quarter of the year 2019. This trend will likely be sustained by the CBN through January 2020.
      • Oil prices: Due to crude oil export suspension of two OPEC member countries including Iran and Venezuela oil prices will likely continue to favor Nigeria. This trend will likely be sustained through at least December.
      • Inflation rates: The inflation rate is expected to continue declining slightly. The prices of staple foods, a large component of a typical household baseet, are relatively lower than the previous year and this will help drive stable or slightly lower rates of inflation through the second quarter of the year. This will also be driven by the expected appreciation of the naira, increased foreign reserve, and increase crude oil prices.
      • Trade flows with neighboring countries: Trade activities with neighboring countries such as Benin, Cameroon, Niger, and Chad are expected to remain mainly informal. With continuous import restriction of rice through the land border, the major import commodity through these borders will likely decline through January 2020. Particularly, the informal trade flow will continue to decline. However, livestock imports from Niger and Chad could increase and peak during August for the Tabaski, though below average due to the persisting conflict.
    • Agro-climatology and rainfall: The rainy season begun normally during February/March in the bimodal zone and is forecast to establish between May/June in the central states and in June/July in the northern areas. Based on seasonal forecasts by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), below average cumulative rainfall is likely in the bimodal area and average in other parts of the country, with above-average rainfall most likely in the northeast (Figure 4). The season will likely end normally in October across the northern areas and December in the southern areas.
    • Main harvest: The planting of major staples including cereals and legumes will likely begin typically as the rains become established in each region of the country. The growing season is forecast to progress as usual with early green harvests of maize and yams in the bimodal zone and groundnuts and potatoes in the central states beginning in May and August, respectively. However, the early green harvest of maize could be below average in localized areas due to the impact of the farmer/pastoralist conflict. The main harvest will likely start in September/October and is expected to be average in most areas despite the below-average precipitation forecast, except for conflict-affected areas.
    • Flooding: Recent annual flood outlook presented by the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) revealed three flood scenarios: 74 LGAs have a Highly Probable Flood Risk and 279 LGAs have a Probable Flood Risk along the major floodplains, and 421 LGAs have a Low Flood Risk in other areas. Thus, average level of flooding along major floodplains is anticipated to occur across the country, mainly during the peak rainfall period between July and September, leading to population displacements and damage to infrastructure and farmlands. Recent NIHSA flood outlook indicates that probable flood area coverage in 2019 will be lower than 2018 which was also an average year.
    • Pastoral conditions/transhumance: Pastoral resources including water and fodder are expected to increase gradually with the establishment of the rainfall starting in March and its continuation through August. Livestock are expected to return to homesteads in the northern areas during June to August when fodder is well established and readily available. However, some pastoralists are likely to stay longer in southern areas where fodder is more readily available and avoid pastoral resources in conflict prone areas in northwest, northeast and central parts of the country.
    • Staple stocks at household level during lean season: Most households will deplete stocks normally during the July to September lean season. However, staple stocks are likely to deplete earlier than normal in conflict-affected areas.
    • Markets availability: Most markets will likely remain well supplied with cereals as markets are well integrated and normal trade flows are expected across the country. The normal onset of the rainy season is anticipated to reduce trader speculation, and traders will release their stocks towards the lean season, increasing market stocks. Trader stocks are relatively high across the country due to favorable main harvest last season and lower household demand and institutional purchases. Thus, markets are expected to remain well supplied during the lean season through September. The main harvest is forecast to begin normally in October across the country, leading to increase market supplies during the peak harvest in November/December. Food market stocks in conflict prone areas will be relatively lower than average due to disrupted trade flows.
    • Income sources: Most poor households will likely engage in normal income earning opportunities including crop planting and weeding during June to September. Others will engage in petty trade, small ruminant sales, water hawking, and construction labor work to earn income. During October to January most poor households will be employed in the main harvest activities. Pastoral households will sell their livestock to procure food during the main harvest when prices have declined relative to previous months. However, households in conflict prone areas in the northwest and central states who remain displaced will have limited income earning opportunities and will engage in atypical indebtedness, intense labor work, and domestic labor. Others will engage in firewood sales, water vending, and wild food collection to earn limited income.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Some poor households across the country will either consume their own food or purchase from markets normally towards the start of the lean season in July. Poor households will engage normally in petty trading and agricultural related labor work to earn income to access food. The stable or declining staple food prices in areas unaffected by conflict have favored poor households, increasing food access. Similarly, the onset of the growing season and availability of pastoral resources will lead to improved livestock body conditions and favorable prices. As a result, livestock-to-cereal terms of trade will increase food access and most poor households across the country will face no food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) through January 2020.

    However, in localized areas, households affected by farmer/pastoralist conflict, armed banditry, kidnapping, and cattle rustling in the northwest and central parts of Nigeria and who remain displaced in Plateau, Benue, Taraba, Kaduna, and Adamawa states will face constraints to typical food access. In Zamfara and Katsina states, households worst affected by armed banditry and kidnapping are only able to meet their basic food needs and will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through September 2019. Similarly, in parts of Taraba, Sokoto, Plateau, and Adamawa states, affected households who are unable to cultivate normally during the recent growing season will only be able to minimally meet their basic food needs during the lean season and will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) during June to September. In the above mentioned areas, the expectation fo Stressed (IPC Phase 2) is based on the likelihood that most conflict-affected households will still have access to a minimal level of income through casual labor and at favorable terms of trade they will be able to purchase sufficient food on markets to meet their basic needs. However, given the loss of other food and income sources, they will face difficulty meeting some basic non-food needs.

    In conflict-affected areas of the northeast, livelihoods for most households will remain heavily disrupted. Agricultural and other income-earning opportunities will remain restricted due to the direct impacts of the conflict and by the high levels of displacement. This is exacerbated by atypical market functioning and elevated staple prices. In many cases, households will remain highly dependent on humanitarian assistance to meet their basic food needs, particularly the IDPs in Greater Maiduguri area where they are mainly accessible to humanitarian actors and are expected to continue facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes. Much of the communities outside of the IDP settlements and outside of the main urban centers in the northeast will likely remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) until the new harvest in October, as they do not receive substantial humanitarian assistance and are using livelihood coping strategies, such as sale of productive assets, to access food. However, some LGAs that are further away from the epicenter of the conflict, particularly in Yobe states, should benefit from the harvest in October and see an improvement of their food security outcomes to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) conditions. Worst-affected areas, where there are highest restrictions on agriculture, other livelihoods activities, access to markets, and assistance provision, are expected to face larger food consumption gaps and they will continue to face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) through September 2019, including Abadam, Marte, Kukawa, Nganzai, Guzamala and Kala Balge. Areas where populations are affected by significant loss of livelihoods activities and who remain inaccessible to humanitarian actors are likely facing similar or worse food security outcomes as neighboring, accessible areas. There remains a risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) in these areas. Extreme levels of acute food insecurity, including Famine (IPC Phase 5), are possible in a worst-case scenario in which conflict significantly restricts humanitarian access and household movement.

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario.



    Impact on food security outcomes


    Reduced level of the herder/farmer conflict

    This would increase returns of IDPs to their homestead, improve livelihood activities including agriculture, income access and food consumption. There would be less areas facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) o utcomes and more areas with no food insecurity.



    Widespread flooding across the country

    Atypical dry spell across the country

    It would reduce the level of main harvest, decreasing food availability and food consumption and increasing coping strategies. More areas would face Stress (IPC Phase 2) outcomes.  

    Figures Most markets indicate below average prices, with a few around the average.

    Figure 1

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET

    This area is in the Northwest of the country.

    Figure 2

    Figure 2

    Source: FEWS NET

    Most markets are showing some level of reduced functioning, with one market with minimal or no activity.

    Figure 3

    Figure 3

    Source: FEWS NET

    Forecast indicates below average rainfall in the bimodal area and above average in the Northeast.

    Figure 4

    Figure 4

    Source: NMME

    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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