People and Government: The Implications of the COVID-19 Pandemic for Food Security in Nigeria

Despite the progress made in the past decade, food and nutrition insecurity remain a pervasive and pressing livelihood and development problem in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). In 2014, about 265 million persons, representing 28.3% of the population in SSA were affected by severe food insecurity. From 2016 through 2018, 57.7% of the population in SSA, corresponding to 606 million people, were classified as severe and moderate food insecure. The number of undernourished people in the region also increased from 219 million in 2016 to 239 million in 2018.

The outbreak of COVID-19 and its attendant disruptions are projected to cause severe famine and food insecurity in about 36 countries, the majority of which are in SSA. In Nigeria, COVID-19 has been tagged as the disease of hunger. In a recent survey by NOIPolls Ltd, 72% of Nigeria’s population expected that the deadly pandemic will cause severe hunger in the country. Scenes of people scrambling for food have been reported in different parts of Nigeria. As of now, the how and the extent to which the deadly pandemic will disrupt the agri-food systems and affect food security in Nigeria, in the medium and long-term, are not yet known. The implications of the pandemic for food security in urban and rural households and governments in Nigeria are also not known.

In this talk, Leader of Africa‘s Dr. Jelili Adebiyi comprehensively addressed those and other related questions by drawing on a systems approach and food systems framing. He framed food security as one of the outcomes and elements that defines a food system. Adebiyi identified the multifaceted and interdependent pathways through which COVID-19 could cause system-wide disruptions to the food systems in Nigeria, in turn, creating any of, or a combination of the following three medium and long-term food security scenarios in the country: chronic food insecurity, mild food insecurity, and marginal food insecurity. Dr. Adebiyi concluded his talk by advancing recommendations that can help mitigate some of the risks posed by the pandemic to food security and food systems in the country and SSA as a whole.

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