Nigeria and the hatchet of hunger

Kenechukwu Obiezu

Kenechukwu Obiezu

What does it really mean to be hungry? Over the world, the privation of one of man`s most primal need has often let loose a chilling anguish – one so intimate that it is almost impossible; one so utterly lacking in respect that it serves children as well as centurions the same rude awakening.

Hunger is something every human being can relate to. In the course of every day that passes by, one is bound to become famished at some point. When the inevitable comes, there is sweet revenge to be had on one of man`s most ancient tormentors when healthy food is handy and when the building blocs that bring up a balanced diet abound.

But this is hardly ever the case. As the world continues to edge towards the precipice pushed by conflicts and climate change, hunger has become a grim reality for countless people around the world especially children who have unfortunately come to know the universal scourge that gnaws at every intestine from time to time.

During the Nigerian Civil War of 1967-70, countless children in the Southeast died from starvation as the Nigerian government laid a siege that swept thousands of innocent children into the suffocating embrace of hunger. Today, hunger continues to weave itself into the daily reality of Nigeria`s poorest children especially those caught up in the conflicts which are rapidly and rapaciously eating up large swathes of the country.

So many rural children who are fortunate to enjoy the normalcy that going to school every week day brings have to walk long distances and back on practically empty stomachs. Such children have tales to tell of the sheer brutality of hunger. Unfortunately, this has become the lot of many children in Africa and across much of the developing world.

On January 27 2022, the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization released the Hunger Hotspots Report in which they highlighted soaring food insecurity across 20 countries and regions where conflict, economic shocks, natural hazards, political instability, and limited humanitarian access are putting millions of lives at risk.

Unsurprisingly, lairs of human misery like Ethiopia, South Sudan and Yemen made the unenviable group of countries of highest concern. Nigeria, the Giant of Africa, completed the ugly quartet. That the most populous black country on earth and the Africa`s largest oil producer is not only on the list but made the very bottom must greatly alarm all those who work round the clock to ensure that hunger is stamped out and all those in whose best interest it is that hunger ceases to be endemic not just to Nigeria but to every country   of the world at all.

In 2011, South Sudan, the world`s youngest country, came to historic independence after about half a century of brutal marginalization and oppression from Sudan. Teething problems have continued to convulse the country as it comes to grips with the challenges of becoming a nation.

Yemen has been embroiled in a brutal civil war for years. Images of starving children from the country which has become a battleground in the proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran continue to feature in the nightmares of millions of people around the world.

At the hands of their Nobel-winning prime minister who has since brought his darkest side to the fore, Ethiopia, the seat of the African Union, continues to descend into chaos. The war in the Tigray region of the country continues to turn up atrocity after atrocity including the rape of toddlers.

But it is the improbable presence of the Giant of Africa on the list that is raising the most eyebrows. The Giant of Africa should ordinarily have no business being on the list. However, as per the report, insecurity and high inflation rates are aggravating acute food insecurity in the country. In conflict-scarred Borno State   around 13,500 people are projected to slide into cataclysmic acute food insecurity if humanitarian and livelihood-building interventions are not sustained.

As things stand, a painful paradox stares Nigeria square in the face. How and why should it be that a country blessed with such an embarrassment of riches is jostling for space on the list of the world`s hungriest enclaves with countries devastated for years by unconscionable conflicts?

As with everything else that is not working in Nigeria, it is children that are bearing the brunt of hunger. Efforts to rebuild those areas scarred by conflict in Nigeria continues but the fear is real that enough is not being done to speedily rescue families from the clutches of huger.

As it stands, more has to be done until every family in Nigeria has enough to eat. The Giant of Africa cannot continue to stand by while hunger continues to heinously hack its children.

Kene Obiezu,

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