The perils of hunger

A farmer reflects on the food crisis in Borno State

For more than 80% of the population in Northeast Nigeria, farming, fishing and livestock are the main — and often only — sources of income. Sadly, a deadly conflict between the Nigerian army and the terrorist organization Boko Haram has since 2009 severely compromised food production — and the consequences for local populations have been devastating.

Now Africa’s largest humanitarian emergency in Borno State, where an estimated 10 million people will require humanitarian assistance in 2018. Almost 4 million face food insecurity, with children representing the majority of that number.

To respond to the alarming food crisis in Borno State, International Medical Corps, supported by European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), distributes food to conflict-affected and vulnerable populations. Over a five-month period, the program reached almost 2,000 people, providing households with food for another five months going forward.

One of the people helped by International Medical Corps is Yafanna. Driven from her farmland by conflict, she is now sheltered in a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Borno State’s capital, Maiduguri. The capital is home to almost 80% of the total 1.8 million IDPs in the region.

Conflict and displacement are not the only obstacles Yafanna have had to overcome. She is also all too familiar with the perils that hunger brings. When asked about her life before the crisis, Yafanna reflects back on her harvest:

“I was a farmer with enough harvest to feed my family and myself. I was even able to sell some of my vegetables to meet other needs.”

This all changed when conflict uprooted Yafanna from her home. Lacking access to her farmland, she was forced to resort to street begging and skipping meals. And this food crisis would bring an even greater tragedy—with little to eat, her body was unable to produce enough breastmilk, and her daughter tragically passed away. She was only 21 months old.

Maiduguri has seen its population double, from 1 million to 2 million, because of the conflict. The city and its surroundings already face economic challenges, and the lack of livelihoods and resources is a hotbed for dangerous coping strategies.

Yafanna receives her monthly food ratio from International Medical Corps Programme Officer Paula Olson.

Nothing can heal the heartbreak of her loss, but for now, at least Yafanna and her children will not go hungry. Before we say our goodbyes, Yafanna poignantly says:

“It could not bring back my daughter, but now we are happy. We eat well and do not have to skip meals again.”

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