Combating the threat of hunger
Global hunger is a complex issue that affects millions of people worldwide. According to the United Nations, in 2019, an estimated 690 million people were suffering from hunger, which is equivalent to 8.9 per cent of the global population. This number has been increasing in recent years, due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hunger is most prevalent in developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. In these regions, poverty, lack of access to resources such as land and water, and political instability are major contributing factors to hunger. Climate change is also exacerbating the problem, as extreme weather events such as droughts and floods can destroy crops and disrupt food systems.
While hunger remains a global issue, the devastating impacts are local and in Nigeria, the effects are visible on vulnerable Nigerians. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently issued a warning that approximately 25 million Nigerians face a severe hunger risk between June and August of this year.
According to the FAO, enduring conflicts, climatic change, inflation, and rising food prices are the primary causes of hunger. Depreciation of currencies has also been mentioned as a contributing factor to the issue. The FAO noted that persistent terrorism in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe States, as well as banditry and kidnappings in Katsina, Sokoto, Kaduna, Benue, and Niger States, have all hampered access to food.
It also recalled that the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) reported that more than 676,000 hectares of farmland were destroyed by flooding last year, reducing harvests and escalating food insecurity throughout Nigeria, increasing the risk of hunger. The FAO, a UN agency, added that more severe weather patterns that have an impact on starvation are likely to occur in the future.
The aforementioned report also emphasized how children are most at risk from food insecurity. According to the report, six of Nigeria’s 17 million food insecure citizens, or children under the age of five, reside in the states of Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Sokoto, Katsina, and Zamfara. Acute malnutrition is linked to a significant mortality risk in children. The number of children with acute malnutrition is anticipated to rise from 1.74 million in 2022 to two million in 2023 in just the BAY states (Borno, Adamawa and Yobe).
The FAO Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria, Matthias Schmale, pointed out that United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), working with government and partners such as MSF and ALIMA, is investing in scaling up preventive nutrition interventions while ensuring that vulnerable children have access to life-saving nutrition services. He further stated: “The food security and nutrition situation across Nigeria is deeply concerning. I have visited nutrition stabilization centers filled with children who are fighting to stay alive. We must act now to ensure they and others get the life-saving support they need.”
Statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics, the annual food inflation in Nigeria surged to 20.6% in June of 2022 from 19.5 per cent in May, due to the cost of such essential commodities as bread and cereals, potatoes, yam, meat, fish, etc. Using a ‘cost of food basics’ analysis that compares the monthly minimum recommended spend on food per adult and average wage in 107 countries, a United Kingdom-based Institute of Development Studies has also placed Nigeria as the second poorest country in the world in terms of food affordability.
The other countries where basic food is least affordable include Syria, Ethiopia, Philippines, Ghana, Indonesia, Algeria, Iran, Uzbekistan and Sri Lanka that has for the past four months been in turmoil with their president forced to flee the country, following weeks of protest over skyrocketing prices of consumables. The minimum recommended amount of food by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for energy needs is based on 12-14 basic items that together would account for 2,100 calories per adult per day.
What can lessen this danger of extreme hunger? There is an urgent need for financial support. In addition to funding, our agricultural and food systems need to be revitalized and transformed in order to, among other things, provide better nutrition. Increased effort from all stakeholders is required to boost food sufficiency and boost nutrition. In addition to feeding people, it’s important to give them the nutrients they need to live a healthy life.
Additionally, Nigeria has been dealing with security issues, particularly in the north-east and middle belt regions. This has had an impact on farming and agriculture in those areas as well, as many people are unable to plant or harvest crops. The high risk of hunger can be decreased if all these security issues are properly resolved.
Famine and hunger are also caused by the effects of climate change. Climate change is the term used to describe the long-term rise in atmospheric temperatures. How does climate change impact the availability of food? Floods and droughts brought on by climate change make it harder to produce food. The local food industry can also be severely hampered by erratic rainfall patterns. As a result, access to food is increasingly restricted and priced higher, increasing the likelihood that many people will go hungry.
Burning fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, primarily carbon dioxide, and is the main contributor to climate change. If greenhouse gas emissions are not significantly reduced, climate change will significantly worsen hunger and famine, especially in the world’s poorest regions.
It’s also crucial to remember that the first step in stopping the spread of severe food shortages is to start growing food where it’s most needed. In rural areas where people are coping with high levels of food insecurity, prevention of hunger and famine must start there. Where food is most needed, it should be grown there, and animal survival should be prioritized. This can help stabilize and increase local food production in order to prevent a famine outbreak.
It is impossible to overstate how important local and backyard food production is to keeping families alive in more remote rural areas. It is also impossible to overstate the significance of maintaining livestock. Also, just one cup of milk a day can make the difference between life and death.
- Daniel Ighakpe writes in from Lagos.
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