This mother in Maiduguri, Nigeria is among tens of thousands of displaced people who rely on monthly cash assistance of roughly $12 per month from WFP to feed her child.
WFP/Simon Pierre Diouf
This mother in Maiduguri, Nigeria is among tens of thousands of displaced people who rely on monthly cash assistance of roughly $12 per month from WFP to feed her child.

1.7 million

internally displaced people

5.2 million

food-insecure people


severely malnourished children

The Situation

Boko Haram violence has led to one of the most acute — and sorely neglected — humanitarian crises in the world. As more areas of northeastern Nigeria become accessible, the scale of the human tragedy is becoming apparent.

As of early August 2017, 1.7 million people have been displaced across northeastern Nigeria. Of these, some 1 million are children. In pockets of northeastern Nigeria, food insecurity has reached extreme levels, and the number of people in need of food assistance have increased to about 5.2 million.

Unless lifesaving assistance is provided fast, hunger will only deepen. Some 450,000 children with severe acute malnutrition in northeastern Nigeria require lifesaving treatment this year. Without such treatment, more are likely to lose their lives.

World Food Programme's Work

In November 2016, WFP launched an emergency operation in partnership with the government and other humanitarian agencies to supply food, nutrition and health support in hard-to-reach areas of the Borno and Yobe states. WFP has scaled up its assistance to reach more than 1 million people every month and avert famine.

The agency focuses on:

  • Providing food and, where markets are functioning, cash-based assistance.
  • Providing specialized nutritious food for children under age two at risk of malnutrition.
  • Providing safe and reliable air transport to the humanitarian community. This includes the use of helicopter to carry vital relief—staff, medicines, vaccines, ready-to-use specialized nutritious food—to hard-to-reach, isolated areas.
  • Gathering data for a better understanding of needs. WFP is using mobile phone surveys and working to analyze satellite imagery so that humanitarian needs are clearer and assistance can reach the most vulnerable.

In July 2017, WFP assisted 1.1 million people in northeast Nigeria. This included 953,000 people who received general food distributions, 170,000 who received cash or vouchers and 236,000 children and women who received specialized nutritious food.

In an effort to restore livelihoods and combat food insecurity during the lean season — the time between harvests when food runs out — WFP has been working with the Food and Agriculture Organization to support small-scale agricultural production by distributing seeds, tools, fertilizer and starter kits along with food rations. The two agencies reached 609,000 people with the integrated agriculture assistance in July 2017.

Insecurity persists in parts of northeast Nigeria, disrupting food supplies, seriously hindering access to basic services and limiting agricultural activities. For the fourth consecutive year, conflict has prevented many people from farming. The country’s hunger season — the time of year when the last harvest runs out — began earlier than ever because families already exhausted their food supplies.

Although an increasing amount of territory has become accessible to humanitarian workers, the situation remains unpredictable following violent attacks and security threats.

Humanitarian needs are alarmingly high, and WFP is faced with severe funding shortfalls — forcing it to halve basic food rations, cut cash assistance by 30 percent for people in urban areas who have other means of support and shrink critical nutrition assistance, targeting only the neediest women and the youngest children — those under age two instead of age five — with reduced rations.

WFP is helping only the very hungriest and most vulnerable. This is a brutal form of triage. With adequate resources, WFP could do so much more.

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Articles About Nigeria

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Conflict and Famine

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What WFP Delivers: Plumpy’Sup

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One Journalist’s Dispatch From a Child Malnutrition Crisis in Nigeria

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More People Are Facing Famine Than Live in America’s Top Cities

In a recent article for TIME Ideas, Liz Schrayer of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition reminds us that 20 million are currently fighting famine: That’s more than the populations of New York…

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20 Million People Could Starve. Will The World Step Up?

By the Washington Post Editorial Board

Guest contributor

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Through the Windows of a Bulletproof Car

Read WFP Communications Officer Lisa Bryant's first hand-account of her recent trip to Northeast Nigeria, where more than 50,000 people stand on the brink of famine.

World food programme

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What the “Hunger Season” Means for Farmers Fighting Famine

When a farming family’s crop stockpiles run out, the waiting begins. In northeast Nigeria, where millions of people have fled the violence of Boko Haram, the so-called “hunger season” begins…

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Behind the Lens in Northeast Nigeria: Halima’s Story

On this Behind the Lens recording, World Food Programme Communications Officer, Lisa Bryant shares the story of Halima and her three children. She met them on her recent trip to the…

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How WFP Is Partnering With Other Humanitarians to Fight Famine

The World Food Programme (WFP) is the leader in the field of humanitarian food assistance. Every day, the agency reaches 80 million people in 80 countries around the globe with…

Aliya Karim

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