FAO in Nigeria

12 million people face hunger as insecurity and covid-19 pandemic effects continue to bite

One of the beneficiaries of FAO agriculture livelihood intervention in northeast Nigeria proudly show-off her harvest. Photo ©FAO/Opeyemi Olagunju

ABUJA – The ongoing conflict in the northeast and the lingering economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to drive hunger in Nigeria – according to the latest official figures for analysis of food insecurity and malnutrition released on 5 November.

The October 2021 food security and nutrition analysis - known as the Cadre Harmonise conducted in 20 states, and  the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), has revealed that approximately12.1 million people are expected to be in food insecurity crisis or worse through December this year.

The analysis involved 154 008 198 people, out of whom 12 135 318 in the participating 20 states plus the FCT are currently experiencing Crisis and Emergency phases of food insecurity.

The report’s provisional results were released in Abuja on Friday, November 5. They reveal that the number of people in critical or worse phases of food insecurity may increase to about 16.9 million unless efforts are made to scale up and sustain humanitarian support and other government interventions for livelihood recovery and resilience.

Crisis level is described as a stage at which, even with humanitarian aid, at least one out of five households in the target area is characterized with considerable food consumption deficits and acute malnutrition at high or higher rates than the normal. It also stands for a situation in which households are marginally able to meet their minimum food needs by depleting assets related to livelihoods, leading to deficits in food consumption.

The states analysed in the current Cadre Harmonise round include Abia, Adamawa, Bauchi, Benue, Borno, Cross-River, Edo, Enugu, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Lagos, Niger, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba, and Yobe, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).


The analysis estimates that in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states, which are the most affected by the prolonged armed conflict, 2.4 million people are currently in the Crisis phase or worse and need urgent assistance. These include an estimated 228 707 people in the Emergence phase wherein, even with humanitarian aid, at least one out of five households is either facing extreme food deficits, resulting in a very high acute malnutrition or excessive mortality, or an extreme loss of assets relating to livelihoods, causing deficits in food consumption in the short term.

This number is projected to increase to 3.5 million at the peak of the 2022 lean season between June and August, with the number of people anticipated to be in the Emergency phase’ doubling to 459,847. Another 13 551 people are anticipated to experience catastrophe-like conditions in some of the most inaccessible localities, if access to life-saving and livelihood support interventions are not sufficiently scaled up.


Insecurity - especially the prolonged armed conflict in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states and banditry in some north-west states, including Sokoto, Katsina, Zamfara and Kaduna states, as well as the north-central states of Benue and Niger - is the main driver of the prevailing food insecurity.

High inflation rates have resulted in soaring food commodity prices, partly attributable to the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic downturn. 

Loss of employment and reduction in household income due to the COVID-19 pandemic and displacement arising from conflict and armed banditry has forced most households to employ emergency livelihood coping strategies.


Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD)

The October, 2021 CH results is apt and comes at this phase of economic stress when we are still faced with winning the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and of living with the new normal; and not forgetting the daunting insecurity issue which has continued to threaten Nigeria’s food and nutrition security. Obviously, these changes have led to disruptions in food production and distribution systems, resulting in poor consumption patterns and levels among several households especially, in areas challenged by insecurity and disrupted livelihoods. I am particularly pleased that this round of CH analysis has included the results from five (5) new states from the South of Nigeria (Enugu, Abia, Edo, Lagos and Cross-River) for the first time since the inception of the CH the country. This became necessary to enable a holistic analysis and understanding of the drivers and limiting factors to food and nutrition insecurity across the entire country. The Government assures all partners of governments’ commitment to upholding the outcome and recommendations arising from it with a view to enhancing the food and nutrition security situation in the concerned states through objective intervention programming.  – FMARD Permanent Secretary, Dr. Ernest Umakhihe.


FAO adapted its emergency and resilience programme to respond to the increased need. Provision of quality seeds, micro-irrigation and fertilizers during the just concluded 2021 rainy season enabled 65 800 households in the BAY states to improve crop production. A further 12 400 households benefitted from livestock restocking support with 475 households having been reached by our aquaculture intervention during that time. Plans are advanced to support 21 700 households in the upcoming dry season. This adds to more than 1 084 309 vulnerable households that FAO has reached in northeast Nigeria, since 2016, enabling them to restart their agriculture-based livelihoods (crops, livestock and aquaculture production); safe access to fuelwood energy and strengthening their resilience.

“As the report has shown, millions of people are currently experiencing difficulties in accessing their basic food and non–food needs due to disrupted livelihoods resulting into reduced households income sources. It is important that the Government and other stakeholders take immediate actions to mitigate these effects and continuously monitor their drivers,” - FAO Representative in Nigeria and to the Economic Organization of the West African States (ECOWAS), Fred Kafeero.


UNICEF's nutrition response in north-east Nigeria supports the government and partners to provide nutrition services to prevent malnutrition among women and children, provide treatment to those in need of nutrition services, and strengthen the capacity of families and communities to be more resilient to malnutrition and its underlying causes.

"It costs only 5,000 Naira to prevent a child from becoming malnourished, while it costs 50,000 Naira to treat a malnourished child. We need to invest in preventing malnutrition in children by improving the diets of women and young children, ensuring supplementation – including with Vitamin A and Iron Folic Acid - and expanding nutrition counselling services to caregivers. By doing so, we can change the narrative of the Cadre Harmonize analysis and ensure that children survive and thrive. But we must all work together to achieve this, especially during the challenging times we are now facing,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria.


WFP is extremely worried about the large numbers of people experiencing food insecurity in the northeast. With some 3.5 million people expected to face crisis phase or worse in the coming lean season, the slightest shock will push them over into emergency. The results reflect the underlying drivers of persistent climate shocks and stresses. This is compounded by ongoing conflict and rising food prices undermining people’s ability to feed themselves. Without continued food assistance, millions will go hungry, resulting in mass migration due to destitution and the destabilization of the region. The cost of inaction is unthinkable. WFP will do all it can to reach more people, working with the Government and other partners to save lives with food and nutrition assistance and to avert the collapse of livelihoods in affected communities.

“Without immediate food assistance, these people will face a catastrophe. The most powerful tool that WFP can deploy to save lives is emergency food assistance,” said Ronald Sibanda, WFP Country Director a.i. adding: “This will remain critical to mitigate the direct effects of food insecurity in the northeast.” 

About Cadre Harmonise

The CH analysis results in Nigeria have become the major yardstick for estimating the areas and population of vulnerable people in needs of humanitarian assistance as presented in the annual Humanitarian Needs Overviews (HNOs) and the Humanitarian Response Plans (HRPs).

The CH analysis led by the Government of Nigeria, is facilitated by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) through the National Programme for Food Security (NPFS) with financial and technical support from FAO, the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS), the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), European Union, the French Development Agency and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Others members of the technical committee of the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET), Integrated Food Security Phase Classification Global Support Unit (IPC), International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Oxfam, Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and Save the Children.

The outcome from the CH analysis provides early warning alert to national and state governments as well as development partners including the humanitarian community on looming food insecurity and nutrition gaps faced in the states and is used to galvanise support towards targeted actions.

Conducted in Nigeria for several years now, the tool has provided opportunities for the governments and actors in food security and nutrition to continually monitor and track the progress made in improving food security and nutrition situations, particularly in the northeast that has been burdened by insecurity caused by a prolonged armed insurgency.


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For more details Comtact:

Emmanuel Kihaule                                      David Tsokar                               Opeyemi Olagunju

Communications Specialist                          Communications Specialist            Communications/Reporting Officer 

FAO Nigeria                                                FAO Nigeria                                 FAO Nigeria – North East Sub Office

[email protected]                     [email protected]                 [email protected]