Food security: 25,000 tons of wheat for Northeast arrive from Ukraine

A donation of 25,000 tons of wheat for emergency food assistance to 1.3 million crisis-affected people in northeast Nigeria has arrived in the country from Ukraine.

The tons of wheat were donated through the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).

This vital contribution – part of Ukraine’s humanitarian “Grain from Ukraine” initiative launched by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, would come in handy as prices of staple food in Nigeria have been rising in recent times, pushing basic meals out of the reach of millions of vulnerable families across the country.

According to a statement by WFP, the shipment was made possible thanks to a collaborative effort from Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Luxembourg, Norway, the Republic of Korea, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, which helped cover the costs of transporting the wheat from Ukraine to Nigeria and its distribution to the families who so urgently need it.

WFP Representative and Country Director in Nigeria, David Stevenson said: “We extend our heartfelt thanks to the Government of Ukraine, partners, and donors for their unwavering support through the Grain from Ukraine Initiative.”

He added: “This collaborative effort plays a crucial role in alleviating suffering and maintaining human dignity in areas facing conflict and food price increases.”

The statement added that as part of WFP’s ongoing humanitarian operations, the wheat donation will be combined with cash and other commodities to meet the basic food and nutrition needs of crisis-affected women, men, and children for a two-month period.

It decried that deadly conflicts and persistent violence in northeast Nigeria have driven millions of people out of their homes, off their farms, and across the region, jeopardizing agriculture and livelihoods production, adding that over the past three months, unlike in previous years, prices of key staples across several markets in Nigeria increased above pre-harvest levels, hampering food access for vulnerable families who depend on harvests and markets for their supplies.

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The statement said: “In Maiduguri, for example, the wholesale prices of red beans have increased by 210 percent compared to the same period last year (February 2023). Similarly, prices of maize and sorghum increased by 176 percent and 188 per cent respectively.

The country is also grappling with its fourth consecutive year of chronic food insecurity, with 26.5 million people across the country projected to face acute hunger during the 2024 lean season between June and August, according to the November 2023 Cadre Harmonisé food security analysis.

“WFP is committed to working with the government and partners to build more resilient, inclusive, and effective food systems, taking advantage of its current footprint in the country. Through its “Out of Conflict into Solutions” food systems approach, WFP seeks to prioritize emergency food assistance to the most vulnerable groups while simultaneously supporting self-reliance by rebuilding assets to improve long-term food security and resilience, including adaptation to climate change, providing timely access to nutritious food, and promoting innovative financing to support WFP operations.

“In 2023, WFP invested US$200 million in the agricultural economy through locally purchased food and cash transfers to crisis-affected families for food redemption in local markets.”

Stevenson said: “WFP has the tools and willingness to support the government in restoring and unlocking the agricultural potential of northeast Nigeria, making it again the breadbasket of the country. But we cannot achieve this alone. Collective action is needed to bring peace and stability, ensure stable markets, encourage financial investments, and generate employment through enhanced collaboration with Nigerian private sector partners, suppliers, transporters, service providers, and retailers.”

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He, however, said to ensure continued food and nutrition assistance to crisis-affected people in northeast and northwest Nigeria, WFP urgently requires US$154 million for the next six months (March-August 2024).

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