The United Nations has called for prompt response of the international community to the food crisis in North East Nigeria to prevent famine in the region.
The Assistant Secretary-General and Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel, Toby Lanzer, disclosed this to the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja on Monday.
Lanzer spoke to NAN on the sideline of the 32nd Annual Meeting of the Food Crisis Prevention Network.
The UN representative said that the international community needed to act immediately to resolve the food insecurity faced by 4.6 million Nigerians in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States following the Boko Haram insurgency.
He emphasised that if the response to the situation in the North East was not addressed effectively, a famine could be declared in the areas.
Lanzer said: “Every three months, a group of technicians from the three most affected states come together with a group of experts from Food and Agriculture Organisation and other institutions.
“We look at nutrition data, health data, population movement and we come up with a calculation based on very thorough analysis by these technocrats.
“And the latest showed that Nigeria has 4.6 million people severely food insecure; the next step up, and I hope we never get there, will be declaring a famine.
“Sadly, we know people are already dying and that is why we need to scale up the international support for the Nigerian state and federal authorities right now, not in a week or in a month.”
Lanzer said that the UN recently issued an appeal to the international community for one billion dollars to be made available to assist agencies working in tandem with Nigerian authorities.
He said: “It was just issued last weekend in Geneva so we are waiting for a response from the economically rich countries.
“We know that Washington, Brussels and a couple of other key capitals are showing a deep sense of concern and commitment.
“What we will need though is other capitals in Europe or further afar; it is going to be all hands on deck for this humanitarian response.”
Lanzer said it was important the response came at the same time as other efforts made in rebuilding and securing the North East.
He further said that the UN appeal to the international community was also for the countries in the Lake Chad Basin.
Members of the Food Crisis Prevention Network also urged ECOWAS and the international community to provide Nigeria with technical and financial support.
The members said that the support would be for the implementation of a recovery plan in addressing the food crisis situation in the North East.
They made the call in a declaration issued at the end of an event tagged “Focus on Northeast Nigeria” on the sideline of the annual meeting.
The declaration was read by Deputy Minister for Planning and Development, Ministry of Agriculture, Liberia, Charles McClain.
Members also called on technical and financial partners to support the ministerial Task Force to coordinate the humanitarian measures put in place by the Federal Government.
They further urged the Federal Government to step up efforts in providing secure access for humanitarian organisations in the affected areas.
They said: “We urge ECOWAS and the international community to respond to this food and nutrition emergency in order to save lives and relieve the distress experienced by affected populations.
“We urge all member states and states and stakeholders to engage in regional solidarity efforts and take into consideration the cross-border nature of the crisis threatening be entire Lake Chad Basin.
“We urge ECOWAS and its technical and financial partners to be more involved, putting in place medium and long term structural measures aimed at strengthening the resilience of populations in the affected areas.”
They also urged all stakeholders to jointly monitor the progress made and amend plans based on evidence gathered.
Created in 1984, the RPCA is an international network for co-operation and co-ordination under the political leadership of ECOWAS and West African Economic and Monetary Union.