With the current exchange rates, 70 per cent of Nigerians live on less than US$1 per day. Too few Nigerians are able to obtain enough food to live healthy and productive lives, so it is no surprise Nigeria is ranked the 14th most hungry nation out of 119 countries and 152nd out of 187 on the 2015 UNDP Human Development Index (HDI).
With a Global Hunger Index (GHI) score of 32.8, which is only a marginal improvement over the last decade, Nigeria has steadily plunged in its GHI scores since 1990. The severity of hunger in the country remains serious as the nation failed to fulfill its commitment to the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving hunger by 2015.
Nigerians are rated as “seriously” hungry, by the 2015 GHI because of low scores in the four most crucial indicators of undernourishment, child stunting, child wasting, and child mortality, Worse still, the 2016 Report of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) reveals that 7 per cent of the Nigerian population is undernourished and that the prevalence of wasting and stunting in children under five years of age are 18 per cent and 36.4 per cent respectively. But these figures do not tell the entire story.
Hunger, as defined by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, is identified as food deprivation, undernourishment (or consumption of fewer than 1,800 kilocalories a day, which is the minimum that most people require to live a healthy and productive life). Exacerbated by poverty, the effects of hunger are reflected in high rates of diseases and mortality, limited neurological development and low productivity.
Hunger, poverty and disease are interlinked, with each contributing to the presence and persistence of the other. Hunger is a major constraint to the country’s development economically, socially, and politically; the poorer, the hungrier. The way forward is clear. Investment is essential for agricultural research and rural development in partnership with the private sector and civil society. Provision for good nutrition and education must be accepted as a long-term investment. Having an explicit hunger target as a priority development goal is desirable.
The specific reference to food security, hunger and the importance of agriculture on the global agenda is a sign of increased political sensitivity towards these important issues. Hence, Nigeria must invest more in nutrition and food production. It is easily within the nation’s capacity to eradicate poverty and hunger in a short period of time. However, political will is paramount. Eradication of hunger is an objective that must be addressed directly. Fighting hunger is an investment that produces high returns in growth and overall welfare. The fight against hunger in Nigeria must begin in earnest.