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Nigeria: on the brink

WFP provides life-saving assistance as famine looms in the northeast

Story by World Food Programme April 7th, 2017

When Boko Haram kidnapped five of his children and took away all his possessions, Bintu's husband could not take it – he died of complications from his hypertension.

The family had just returned to their home in northeastern Nigeria after spending months on the run, moving from village to village with nowhere to sleep, trying to escape the violence.

After her husband's death, Bintu – left to care for her five children on her own – had to flee again. "They took everything from us including our clothes. They kept us without food and water," she says.

Bintu and her family are among the 1.9 million Nigerians displaced by Boko Haram violence. Photo: WFP/Amadou Baraze

Now living in in Dikwa, Bintu and her family are among the hundreds of thousands of people the World Food Programme (WFP) is supporting through its rapid response mechanism in Borno state.

Under this, specialist teams fly into remote, hard-to-reach areas where they remain for up to seven days. Food is trucked in and handed out at distribution centres.

“We were hungry before, but with the food we are receiving [from WFP] our condition has improved. If this food assistance stopped we would not have any recourse except begging," Bintu says, describing how she and her children were forced to beg food off neighbours and passers-by. She is also suffering from high blood pressure.

Under WFP's rapid response mechanism, teams fly into remote areas to distribute food. Photo: WFP/Amadou Baraze
After her husband died, Bintu was left alone to provide for her children. Photo: WFP/Amadou Baraze
Thanks to WFP's support, Bintu can put food on the table for her family. Photo: WFP/Amadou Baraze

Coupled with the challenges of extreme poverty, underdevelopment and climate change in the Lake Chad Region, Boko Haram violence has led to one of the most acute humanitarian crises in the world.

Like Bintu, some 1.9 million people have been forced out of their homes in Nigeria due to conflict and insecurity. Almost 200,000 have sought shelter in neighbouring countries. Many have lost everything they owned. In the worst affected areas, in the northeast of the country, famine looms for 120,000 people.

In March, WFP provided assistance to over 1.2 million people in the northeast, for the fourth consecutive month since December 2016.

WFP food is trucked into remote, difficult-to-acccess areas, and distributed by WFP staff.  Photo:WFP/Amadou Baraze
In February alone, WFP provided food to more than one million people. Photo:WFP/Amadou Baraze
Through its food distributions, WFP is supporting the most vulnerable. Photo:WFP/Amadou Baraze
In north-eastern Nigeria, 120,000 people are facing famine. Photo:WFP/Amadou Baraze

As malnutrition rises to alarming levels, WFP complements its general food distributions by providing specialized nutritious food to children aged under 5, and pregnant and nursing women.

Thanks to WFP, Yagana Modu (below, right), a mother in Monguno, Borno State, can feed her daughter Plumpy'Sup, a ready-to-eat nutrition supplement designed to combat malnutrition.

"We are grateful for this support," Bintu says . "We pray that WFP will increase food rations as they are not sufficient for now."

Her hopes – and those of so many others – are pinned on WFP receiving the necessary funding. To continue its life-saving operations through September, WFP requires US$ 242 million.

Malnutrition is now at an alarming level in north-east Nigeria. Photo:WFP/Amadou Baraze
WFP is providing pregnant and nursing women, and children under 5 with specialized nutritious food. Photo:WFP/Amadou Baraze

Baba Gana Mai Abba, is a father of 12. He lost his home after fleeing to a nearby village to escape Boko Haram violence.

He is among those that WFP is assisting.

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Borno, Nigeria