As famine looms in terrorism-ravaged north-eastern part of the country, an agribusiness strategist has urged the Federal Government to streamline the dynamics of food production in the zone.
The strategist, Mr Sotonye Anga, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Lagos that making the means of food production more efficient would address food shortages.
Anga said that apart from channelling food supply to the area, government should go a step further to empower farmers, subsidise inputs, provide seeds and rejuvenate farmlands.
He made the assertion following the call by the “Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF)’’ or Doctors Without Borders for a `vital need to have a food pipeline’’ in place to tackle malnutrition in the north-east.
“As we know, a lot of farmers were victims of Boko-Haram attacks, many died while many others flee for their lives.
“This has greatly affected the people of the region who are mostly small scale farmers.
“Hence, food should be channelled to that population because the reality on ground is that there is a massive decline of food production in that part of the country, so they need support.
“We need to ensure that the population is not sick or malnourished, otherwise, malnutrition is staring us in the face.
“Very critical also is that government should restore food production dynamics, improved seedlings, need to subsidise farm inputs like fertilisers and so on,’’ Anga said.
NAN reports MSF as saying that severely malnourished children are dying in large numbers in North-East Nigeria, the former stronghold of Boko Haram militants where food supplies are close to running out.
The medical charity urged the United Nations to set up emergency food transports to the area where up to 800,000 civilians have been cut off for over a year.
MSF General Director Bruno Jochum was reported to have said: “The situation is a large-scale humanitarian disaster.
“There is a vital need to have a food pipeline in place to save the population that can be saved.
“We are talking at least about pockets of what is close to a famine,’’ he said.
The report also said that MSF team delivered some 40 metric tonnes of food last week to Banki, a town 1,200km near the Cameroon border, including emergency supplies for more than 4,000 children.
It said that MSF had vaccinated children against measles, which can be deadly in children under five years.
The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) also delivered 30,000 metric tonnes of food and other items there last week, in a cross-border operation from Cameroon.
The U.N. says three million people in the north-east are in urgent need of food aid, but that some roads within Nigeria are unsafe for convoys due to mines.