Nutrition and food security in Nigeria
Conflict, drought and food price inflation are the main causes of food insecurity in Nigeria. The Boko Haram conflict has displaced massive numbers of people and has put more pressure on food resources in the northeastern part of the country, where violence is leading to a decline in agricultural production and is depriving farmers of stable incomes. Children are particularly affected; according to UNICEF, 11 million children suffer from stunting across the country, and more than one out of two of these children are from the northern regions. Their chronic malnutrition is also the result of the nutritional poverty that characterises the diets of the poor and is itself due to the lack of information about the types of food that should be targeted. Their low incomes are not the only explanation for this nutritional poverty, since nutrient-rich products are not necessarily more expensive or harder to find. The lack of knowledge about nutrition issues explains why the poor make these food choices. There is a direct link between ignorance, growth disorders and poverty. Nutritional deficiency affects children’s ability to learn and, more generally, it affects both the development of the country’s human capital and its economic productivity. The World Bank estimates that every dollar spent on nutrition is worth between USD 8-138. Since last January, the Nigerian government has set up a school food programme in three pilot states in the south and centre of the country, which should benefit 15 million primary school pupils. However, nutrition interventions need to be extended across the country, and involve related issues, such as maternal nutrition.