Humanitarian aid workers in Nigeria say that food prices have soared because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the cost is driving hunger in parts of the country that can ill afford yet another challenge.
“Everywhere we work the food prices have gone up, in some places they doubled. It means that millions of people in the northeast of Nigeria do not have enough to eat,” said Ruth Mwakiuna Muriungi, an economic security programs coordinator for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
The ICRC says severe malnutrition in children is up by 10 percent compared with the same time last year, while the number of children receiving aid overall is up 20 percent.
“What we are seeing now is just the tip of an iceberg, and we are very concerned by the trend, especially in Maiduguri,” said Thomas Ndambu, an ICRC nutritionist. “I am certain that when Nigerian Red Cross volunteers resume their community outreach, the numbers will surge.”
The ICRC said armed conflict severely limits food production and local farm income in Borno State and surrounding northeast regions, while Kano State – the major seed-producing region – was among the hardest hit by COVID during the planting season. The pandemic affected processing operations and transportation, and many farmers could not get seeds in time to plant crops.
It also led to border closures that created challenges for imported food. Almost two million people remain displaced in northeast Nigeria and cannot work their land, with similar concerns for the wider Lake Chad region.