Nigeria famine risk rising, those in danger may double in 2017

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification has issued a special alert calling for urgent humanitarian action.

The Nigerian flag flies in Lagos. Picture: AFP.

GENEVA – Global food security monitors said on Friday that Nigeria's Borno state was at increased risk of famine, with one study projecting the number of those affected will rise to 115,000 in 2017 from 55,000 this year.

The northeastern state is the area worst hit by the seven-year Boko Haram insurgency that has killed 15,000 people and uprooted more than 2 million during the Islamist militants' attempt to create a “caliphate” in the area.

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), which is backed by UN and other aid agencies, issued a special alert calling for urgent humanitarian action.

“There is an elevated likelihood that famine is ongoing and will continue in the inaccessible areas of Borno State assuming conditions will remain similar or worse to those observed in Bama and Banki towns from April to August of 2016,” it said.

“The current response is insufficient to meet the very large emergency assistance needs.”

People displaced by conflict are worst affected, it said, adding that low crop production, disrupted livelihoods and financial crisis were also to blame.

Nigerian military forces backed by troops from neighbouring states have in recent months ousted Boko Haram from most of an area the size of Belgium that they controlled until early 2015, revealing thousands living in famine-like conditions.

The US-based Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) has said at least 2,000 people may have died of famine in the region this year, and the United Nations has said 75,000 children could starve to death over the next few months if they do not receive humanitarian assistance.

The IPC cited a report by the UN-backed Cadre Harmonise, a regional food security partnership that found 115,000 people in Borno state and more than 5,000 in Yobe state would be at risk from famine in the second half of 2017.

The FEWS NET study had confirmed the alarming situation and revealed an ongoing elevated risk of famine that was likely to continue into 2017, the IPC statement said.