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Struck by Malnutrition: ‘Humanitarian Catastrophe’ Looms in Nigeria’s Northeast

4.4 million people in the northeast are “severely food insecure” due to the war between Boko Haram and military

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Malnutrition in Nigeria. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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  • 4.4 million people in the northeast are “severely food insecure” due to the ongoing war between Boko Haram and the military of Nigeria and its neighbors
  • The fight against Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria has gone on since 2009 and drawn in neighboring Chad, Cameroon, and Niger
  • The WFP aims to get food assistance to 431,000 people by the end of the year 2016

Nigeria’s war-torn northeast has been struck by malnutrition and aid agencies had warned that it is so rife that part of the region could already be in a famine.

The United Nations says 4.4 million people in the northeast are “severely food insecure” due to the ongoing war between Boko Haram and the military of Nigeria and its neighbors.

Malnutrition children in Nigeria. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Malnutrition children in Nigeria. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Parts that are too dangerous or otherwise cut off from aid agencies could already be in a famine, a report from the Famine Early Warning Systems Network said.

“If we do not intervene, it’s going to be a humanitarian catastrophe,” said Sory Ouane, acting Nigeria country director for the World Food Program.

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States cut from aid

The fight against Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria has gone on since 2009 and drawn in neighboring Chad, Cameroon, and Niger. Over 20,000 people have been killed and 2.7 million forced to flee, with many ending up in squalid displaced person camps in Cameroon or in Nigerian cities such as Maiduguri, Bama, and Yola.

Refugee camp in Cameroon. Image Source: VoaNews
Refugee camp in Cameroon. Image Source: VoaNews

Starting in 2014, the militants began overrunning towns and cities in the northeast. Nigeria’s military has pushed the insurgents out of most of the areas they captured. But the months of fighting have cut parts of the northeastern Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states from aid.

Ouane blamed the fighting and ensuing disruptions in farms and marketplaces for the food insecurity. As more areas of the northeast become accessible to aid agencies, Ouane expects the need for food assistance to grow.

“We are highly concerned about the rising number of people facing hunger as their needs become clear,” Ouane said.

Six die daily from disease, malnutrition

Last month, Doctors Without Borders said as many as six people were dying daily from disease and malnutrition at a displaced person camp in Bama.

Nigerian women receiving food from WFP. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Nigerian women receiving food from WFP. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

A National Emergency Management Agency official said many of the worst cases of malnutrition at the camp were people who had recently arrived from areas where no humanitarian assistance was available.

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The WFP aims to get food assistance to 431,000 people by the end of the year, Ouane said, but that could increase to 700,000 if the need grows as aid agencies access more areas.

“If we manage to reach them, we will contribute greatly to stabilize their nutrition status and their food security situation,” Ouane said. (VOA)

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Opium Cultivation Goes Down by 20% in Afghanistan: UN

It noted that opium poppy weeding and harvesting provided for the equivalent of up to 354,000 full-time jobs to rural areas in 2017.

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oPIUM CULTIVATION
In this April 11, 2016, photo, farmers harvest raw opium at a poppy field in the Zhari district of Kandahar province, Afghanistan. VOA

A new United Nations survey finds that opium cultivation in Afghanistan has decreased by 20 percent in 2018 compared to the previous year, citing a severe drought and falling prices of dry opium at the national level.

The total opium-poppy cultivation area decreased to 263,000 hectares, from 328,000 hectares estimated in 2017, but it was
still the second highest measurement for Afghanistan since the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) began monitoring in 1994.

The potential opium production decreased by 29 percent to 6,400 tons from an estimated 9,000 tons in 2017.

The UNODC country representative, Mark Colhoun, while explaining factors behind the reduction told reporters in Kabul the farm-gate prices of dry opium at the harvest time fell to $94 per kilogram, the lowest since 2004.

Afghanistan, Opium cultivation
FILE – Afghan farmers collect raw opium as they work in a poppy field in Khogyani district of Jalalabad east of Kabul, Afghanistan, May 10, 2013. VOA

The decreases, in particular in the northern and western Afghan regions, were mainly attributed to the severe drought that hit the country during the course of the last year, he added.

“Despite these decreases, the overall area under opium-poppy cultivation is still the highest ever recorded. This is a clear challenge to security and safety for the region and beyond. It is also a threat to all countries to and through which these drugs are trafficked as well as to Afghanistan itself,” said Colhoun.

He warned that more high-quality low-cost heroin will reach consumer markets across the world, with increased consumption and related harms as a further likely consequence.

“The significant levels of opium-poppy cultivation and illicit trafficking of opiates will further fuel instability, insurgency and increase funding to terrorist groups in Afghanistan,” he said.

 

Afghanistan, Opium cultivation
Raw opium from a poppy head is seen at a poppy farmer’s field on the outskirts of Jalalabad, afghanistan. VOA

A new United Nations survey finds that opium cultivation in Afghanistan has decreased by 20 percent in 2018 compared to the previous year, citing a severe drought and falling prices of dry opium at the national level.

The total opium cultivation area decreased to 263,000 hectares, from 328,000 hectares estimated in 2017, but it was
still the second highest measurement for Afghanistan since the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) began monitoring in 1994.

The potential opium production decreased by 29 percent to 6,400 tons from an estimated 9,000 tons in 2017.

The UNODC country representative, Mark Colhoun, while explaining factors behind the reduction told reporters in Kabul the farm-gate prices of dry opium at the harvest time fell to $94 per kilogram, the lowest since 2004.

The decreases, in particular in the northern and western Afghan regions, were mainly attributed to the severe drought that hit the country during the course of the last year, he added.

Opium cultivation
Afghan security personnel watch as flames and smoke rise after opium and narcotics are burned in a ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA

“Despite these decreases, the overall area under opium-poppy cultivation is still the highest ever recorded. This is a clear challenge to security and safety for the region and beyond. It is also a threat to all countries to and through which these drugs are trafficked as well as to Afghanistan itself,” said Colhoun.

He warned that more high-quality low-cost heroin will reach consumer markets across the world, with increased consumption and related harms as a further likely consequence.

“The significant levels of opium-poppy cultivation and illicit trafficking of opiates will further fuel instability, insurgency and increase funding to terrorist groups in Afghanistan,” he said.

Colhoun noted that while there is no single explanation for the continuing high levels of opium-poppy cultivation, rule of law-related challenges such as political instability, lack of government control and security as well as corruption have been found to be among the main drivers of illicit cultivation.

The UNODC survey estimated that the total farm-gate value of opium production decreased by 56 percent to $604 million, which is equivalent to three percent of Afghanistan’s GDP, from $1.4 billion in 2017. The lowest prices strongly undermined the income earned from opium cultivation by farmers.

 Afghan security personnel watch as flames and smoke rise after opium and narcotics are burned in a ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan
Field Of poppies, Opium. Pixabay

The study finds that 24 out of the 34 Afghan provinces grew the opium-poppy in 2018, the same number as in the previous year.

The survey found that 69 percent of the opium poppy cultivation took place in southern Afghanistan and the largest province of Helmand remained the leading opium-poppy cultivating region followed by neighboring Kandahar and Uruzgan and Nangarhar in the east.

It noted that poppy opium cultivation weeding and harvesting provided for the equivalent of up to 354,000 full-time jobs to rural areas in 2017.

A U.S. government agency, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), has noted in its latest report that as of September 30, Washington’s counternarcotics-related appropriations for the country had reached almost $9 billion.

Also Read: The Elections in Afghanistan

“Despite the importance of the threat narcotics pose to reconstruction and despite massive expenditures for programs including poppy-crop eradication, drug seizures and interdictions, alternative-livelihood support, aviation support, and incentives for provincial governments, the drug trade remains entrenched in Afghanistan, and is growing,” said Sigar, which monitors U.S. civilian and military spendings in the country. (VOA)