By Hassan Zaggi
The World Food Programme in Nigeria (WFP) has made remarkable progress in its efforts to check food insecurity and malnutrition in the North East zone.
WFP, which was established in Nigeria three years ago, is currently working in Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa States, the three states worse hit by insurgency in the zone.
Speaking during a visit to the head office of The AUTHORITY in Abuja on Thursday, the Head of Communication of WFP, Inger Marie Vennize, explained that since the establishment of the agency in Nigeria in December 2016, within six months, it had over one million people on its monthly distribution list in three states.
She hinted that in 2017, WFP provided food to 1.2 million people every month in the North East and has continued doing so up till now.
Vennize said that with the intervention of her agency in partnership with other Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) as well other United Nation (UN) agencies, “the food security situation in the North East has improved significantly over the last year. Of course, we monitor the food security situation there very closely.”
According to her, “In the spring of 2017, a survey estimated that over five million people faced food insecurity in the North East due to the conflict.
“A year later in March, another survey was released which estimated that there will be around three million people facing such problems in the North East.
“This is a significant improvement which is due to our efforts to feed the most vulnerable and other people. Improvement was recorded due to activities of the government, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and a lot of other agencies and NGOs who also provide food in the North East”.
Vennize, however, lamented that three million people facing food insecurity is huge, noting “still the situation in the North East remains very severe.”
She explained that, “on top of the general food, we also do a nutrition programme and that is preventive, so we monitor moderate and acute malnutrition and children between six and 59 months are provided with preventive supplementary to ensure that they do not get malnourish.”
Apart from the provision of the nutritional supplement to over 200,000 kids, the WFP also provides supplement to 150,000, either pregnant or breastfeeding women, so that they can nurse their children and remain healthy.
She, however, advocated for support to help the Internally-Displaced Persons (IDPs) move forward and become independent through the provision of livelihood activities.
“What we can do in order to help them move on a little bit, if it is possible at all, is to push for livelihood activities because as nice as it is to have the food brought to you, I think most of us will prefer to make our own living without depending on anyone.
“As much as we can, we are pushing for livelihood activities in the North East. 80 per cent of our beneficiaries are farmers and have difficulty having access to farm lands in these conflict affected areas,” she reiterated.
Explaining further the effort of her agency, she said, “a place like Rann, for example, used to be about 20,000 people, but now we are providing food to everyone there and it is 67,000 on our beneficiary list of IDPs coming to town from different places.
“The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is doing a large programme that we are participating in and together we are doing about 600,000 people.
“So we are distributing seeds and food combine to around 150,000 families hoping that they will be able to pull themselves somehow out of dependency come September.
“We also do boreholes and help do some irrigation systems and we engage a sort of work for food or cash programme. We do feeder roads and small market shades so that people can sell their food and whatever they don’t need themselves. We do waste management and also so some boreholes inside the villages so that people don’t have to walk for kilometres to get the water,” she stated.
In his response, , the Managing Director of The AUTHORITY, Madu Onuorah, applauded the intervention of the WFP in the provision of food for poor Nigerians trapped in the crisis in the North East, describing it as unfortunate.
He lamented that the crisis in the region had not only led to the loss of hundreds of innocent lives, but that it had affected the economy of the country.
Onuorah expressed optimism that with the current efforts of the Federal Government and many partners, the situation in the region would stabilise.
He, however, cautioned that the government has no choice than to quickly resolve the crisis in the North East in the interest of the entire country.
“The crisis has affected so many business in different parts of the country because some people in the south do buy fish from the North East and resell.
He promised that The AUTHORITY would continue to support WFP in its activities for the good of Nigerians.
WFP Communication Officer, Dr. Kelechi Onyemaobi, the pioneer Editor of The AUTHORITY, accompanied Vennize during the visit.
The team was received by the Executive Director (Publications), Sir Joe Nwankwo; the Executive Director (Business Development), Chuks Akunna; the Editor (Daily), Malachy Uzendu; the Editor (Weekend), Okey Muogbo, and the Deputy Editor, Mike Ubani.