By: Bamidele Fashube
The Nigerian Government and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) on Tuesday launched a cash and food assistance programme in three urban COVID-19 hotspots of Abuja, Kano and Lagos.
The UN agency said it is also releasing $3 million to provide cash assistance in addition to the FG release of 2,000 metric tons food from its Strategic Grain Reserve (valued at $1 million).
In a news release, WFP said it is working together with the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, to execute the project while also stressing that;”this is the first time that WFP is expanding its programme in Nigeria to reach people in towns and cities – where millions of people are threatened with hunger and malnutrition due to the socio-economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
It stated that an approximated 90 percent of the country’s population depend on a daily wage to survive, and many of these people live in urban areas.
“Across Nigeria – Africa’s biggest economy and most populous country – people who earn the least have lost the most as a result of the pandemic. These informal workers have lost up to 80 percent of their earnings. With a lack of income and increasing food prices, more and more people are finding it extremely difficult to meet their food needs.
“The prices of basic cereals have risen by 15 percent in the last month alone, and the national price of millet – Nigeria’s staple food – has doubled over the past year. To cope with hunger, families are being forced to borrow money and food, or sell their remaining assets – plunging them deeper into poverty,”it said.
The agency disclosed that distribution of cash and food began in Kano State to complement the Government’s ongoing efforts to cushion the impact of the pandemic adding that this would be replicated in Abuja and Lagos in the coming weeks and months.
It added that:”To minimise the risk of exposure to the virus, WFP has arranged for home deliveries of cash and food. In Kano, food will be delivered using the local ‘ke-ke‘ rickshaw service.
“In Lagos, WFP is partnering with the State Government to deliver food using boats to reach families living in the riverine community of Makoko. Meanwhile, in all three urban areas, cash will be transferred through pre-paid debit cards or online bank transfers.”
“The Government of Nigeria has shown great commitment and leadership in responding to this crisis. This is exactly what we need during this time of pandemic and beyond to achieve Zero Hunger in Nigeria”, said Paul Howe, WFP Country Director and Representative.