Humanitarian agencies are urgently calling for help and funding for millions of people in Nigeria who have been severely hit by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, including conflict-hit communities northeast of the country.
The World Food Programme (WFP) said that more than US$182 million is needed to sustain lifesaving aid to Africa’s most populous country over the next six months.
“We are concerned by conflict-affected communities in northeast Nigeria who already face extreme hunger and who are especially vulnerable. They are on life-support and need assistance to survive,” said Elisabeth Byrs, WFP senior spokesperson.
The northeast region of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, the three so-called BAY states, have been plagued by a decade-long insurgency that has spilled over into the Lake Chad region.
It remains among the most severe humanitarian crises in the world, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), with some 7.9 million mainly women and children in need of urgent assistance today.
“That’s why WFP is distributing now two months’ worth of food and nutrition assistance in IDP camps and among vulnerable communities to ensure that people have enough food while they are on full or partial lockdown”, Ms. Byrs said, outlining plans to help a total of 1.8 million people there.
Needs are great nationally too, the UN agency has warned, linked to a steep drop in international oil prices – Nigeria’s major export commodity – since the outbreak of the virus.
To date, latest World Health Organization (WHO) data indicates that the country has seen more than 12,800 confirmed cases of new coronavirus and over 360 deaths linked to the respiratory disease.
More than 3.8 million people mainly working in the informal sector, face losing their jobs amid rising hardship, Ms. Byrs said, and this could rise to 13 million if movement restrictions continue for a longer period.
“In a country where about 90 million people – 46% of the population – live on less than US$2 a day, this is a real concern”, Ms. Byrs continued. “The urban poor who depend on a daily wage to feed themselves and their families have been very hit by movement restrictions to contain the spread of the virus.”
Three million individuals among the most vulnerable, will receive help, the WFP spokesperson explained, with additional support to government social protection systems in the cities of Abuja, Kano and Lagos – places where the agency has not been present until now.
WFP’s involvement has included re-adjusting school meals programmes during school closures by providing food to take home.
The programme – led by Nigeria’s Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs – aims to reach nine million children in three million homes across the country’s 36 states, where school closures have affected some 39 million youngsters.
The urban poor remain the focus of the scheme, including the floating slum community of Makoko, where tens of thousands of people live cheek by jowl, on stilt houses in a village on the outskirts of Lagos.
“When the Government said nobody should go anywhere, I couldn’t go to the market”, said fish-seller and mother-of-four, Marceline Wanu, who is 25.
“But when I couldn’t go to the market, there was no money to feed my children sometimes and that is very painful. My children received food when they were going to school but when their schools closed, that became an extra burden. But since they gave use some food, it has helped us a bit.” (Source: UN News)