The Nigerian government will "immediately" provide farmers with fertiliser and seeds

Nigeria declares "state of emergency" over food insecurity

AP/BEN CURTIS - Hambre en África
AP/BEN CURTIS - Hunger in Africa

Nigeria's President Bola Tinubu has declared a "state of food security emergency" in the country, where humanitarian organisations have warned of a serious increase in hunger.

"(Tinubu) has declared that a state of food security emergency be announced immediately and that all matters relating to the availability and affordability of food and water, as essential elements of livelihood, be brought within the purview of the National Security Council," said the Nigerian president's spokesman, Dele Alake, in a statement reported by local media on Friday.

"The president has in mind the rising price of food and how it is affecting the citizens. While availability is not an issue, affordability of food is a major problem for many Nigerians," Alake added.

Thus, the Nigerian government will "immediately" provide farmers with fertilisers and seeds "to mitigate the effects of subsidy removal".

It will also create a "strategic food reserve" to be used "as a price stabilisation mechanism for cereals and other foodstuffs".

As part of a longer-term response, the authorities will also "clear" forests on land that can be cultivated, improve food storage and transportation, and establish irrigation systems along the country's major river basins.

"Agriculture already accounts for about 35.21% of jobs in Nigeria, but we aim to raise this to about 70%," Alake said.

Already last May, the UN called for "urgent" assistance to prevent "a crisis of hunger and malnutrition" in northeast Nigeria, a stronghold of jihadist groups such as Boko Haram or its offshoot Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), "from becoming totally catastrophic".

"More than half a million people may suffer emergency levels of food insecurity, with extremely high rates of acute malnutrition and mortality, if there is not a rapid and significant increase in humanitarian assistance," the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warned in a statement at the time.

Similarly, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been reporting this year an "unprecedented" increase in the number of hospitalisations of children for malnutrition in the northeastern state of Borno.

Also in the north-western part of the country, MSF indicated that its facilities were full of malnourished patients.

In that region, some 8.4 million people are food insecure, meaning they do not have access to enough food to lead a healthy life, according to the UN World Food Programme (WFP).