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Nigeria: Spike in food prices sees an increased level of malnutrition in the conflict-affected northeast

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Nigeria: Spike in food prices sees an increased level of malnutrition in the conflict-affected northeast

By: Our Reporter

The acute food insecurity and malnutrition situation in Nigeria is deteriorating as the economic crisis continues to deprive millions of people affected by the protracted conflict in the northeast of accessing food.

Consecutive shocks to the economy, including a 300 percent increase in fuel prices due to the removal of the petrol subsidy and the devaluation of the Nigerian Naira by more than 75%, have caused sudden and sustained spikes in the cost of transportation, staple food prices, agricultural production, and basic services, while the inflation rate reached an 18-year high of 26.72% percent in September.

“Before now, a bag of maize sold for N40,000, but now it sells for N70,000. We were selling one measure between N400 and N500, but now it sells between N1,000 and N1,200,” says Abubakar Isa, a trader in Gwoza town, Borno State. “This is due to the high cost of fuel, and if we complain to the drivers, they say prices of fuel as well as motor spare parts are now high.”

With the lifting of fuel subsidies, the average cost of food items in Borno State increased by 36% and transportation fares by 78%. As a result, thousands of families, especially the internally displaced, can no longer afford to buy the same quality and quantity of food as before, contributing to a poor diet and insufficient nutritious food intake. Income levels and labor opportunities have either reduced or remained the same in Borno State since the fuel subsidy removal.

Over a decade of conflict in the northeast continues to disrupt livelihood and market activities, as well as driving new displacement and preventing access to food production, health services, water, and sanitation facilities. 2.2 million people continue to be displaced across the northeast, while 4.3 million are still in need of food assistance. As of August 2023, 1.53 million children under 5 were acutely malnourished [1] in Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa states.

As the economic crisis rages, more families are coping through erosion of their livelihoods (such as the sale of productive assets) and the adoption of crisis strategies (mainly a high reliance on aid). Furthermore, families are increasingly experiencing a vicious debt cycle. They are taking on higher debt levels every month and maxing out their credit levels to cover basic needs. With such levels of negative coping strategies, many families are precariously exposed, and any sudden shocks at unprecedented levels would further worsen food insecurity and lead to acute malnutrition at extreme levels.

“We were eating 2-3 times daily, but now we have difficulties having breakfast. Not to talk of water for drinking” says Abubakar, “Our children have been sent back from school because we could not pay for their books.”

In addition, smallholding farmers struggled with higher costs of seed, fertilizer, and other farm inputs. As a coping strategy, some farmers reduced the amount of land they cultivated during the growing season.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been recording a steady increase in the number of admissions of children under the age of five suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in its supported health facilities in the northeast. Between 2020 and 2023, the number of new admissions more than doubled. This annual trend, correlated with the increase in the prevalence of malnutrition, food insecurity, and the number of cases of childhood illnesses, could indicate a gradual deterioration in the nutritional situation in the areas of intervention in these health structures, despite the efforts made to improve access to integrated care. From January to September 2023, more than 6,000 severely malnourished under-5 children and over 10,000 malnourished pregnant and lactating women have received nutrition treatment at ICRC-supported health facilities in the northeast.

“Day to day, the rate of malnutrition is increasing as people no longer have access to diversified and nutritious food,” says Ghulam Muhaiuddin Sayad, Deputy Coordinator of the ICRC`s economic security program in Nigeria. “Many people, especially children, are experiencing malnutrition-related illnesses.”

According to the Integrated Food Security Classification in August 2023, acute malnutrition is particularly prevalent among people newly arriving from inaccessible areas in the northeast, with overall global acute malnutrition (GAM) rates of 19.3 percent. The high levels of acute malnutrition indicate an extremely stressed population in relation to food insecurity, poor water and sanitation access, and poor health conditions, which have led to a high disease burden.

The ICRC, along with its partner, the Nigerian Red Cross Society (NRCS), has been supporting the most vulnerable, particularly in the northeast, with cash to purchase food or to commence small-scale businesses. This year, more than 13,187 families benefited from the ICRC`s cash assistance until September 2023. In addition, 41,000 farming families received staple and cash crop seeds to improve food production during the rainy season, while 57,000 people, including pregnant and lactating women and children under five, received food rations and supplementary feeding to prevent malnutrition. Another sustainable support was provided to 300 farmers in Plateau State through the donation of 138 pumps to improve irrigation during the dry season.

Nigeria: Spike in food prices sees an increased level of malnutrition in the conflict-affected northeast

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EU, IIDEA engage commissioners of women affairs on gender equality, rights

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EU, IIDEA engage commissioners of women affairs on gender equality, rights

By: Michael Mike

In a bid to advance gender equality and rights in Nigeria, the European Union (EU), in partnership with the International Institute of Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IIDEA) and the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, has launched a collaborative initiative by organising a two-day conference tailored for state Commissoners of Women Affairs and their Permanent Secretaries.

Laolu Olawumi, the European Union’s Programme Manager on Democracy, Rule of Law and Gender highlighted that the event aims to provide Commissioners of Women Affairs and their Permanent Secretaries with the technical support needed to address and tackle issues affecting women, children, and other vulnerable groups nationwide. Set against the backdrop of International Women’s Day 2024, the conference marks a significant step towards achieving this year’s theme, “Inspire Inclusion.”

Olawumi elaborated that the conference’s structure is designed to furnish Commissioners with the tools required to effectively confront and resolve rights issues. Moreover, the event serves as a knowledge-sharing forum beyond its primary role of offering technical assistance.

Olawumi added that the EU’s support includes ensuring that planning, budgeting, and implementation processes are inclusive. This strategy promotes the full participation of women, children, and persons with disabilities, integrating inclusivity into governance and societal development.

Under the leadership of the Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs. Uju Kennedy-Ohanenye, the conference fostered a meaningful exchange of insights and strategies among state Women’s Affairs Commissioners, bolstering their ability to advocate for gender equality within their jurisdictions.

The event is part of the recently inaugurated second phase of the European Union’s Support to the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC II) programme implemented by IIDEA and based on the achievements of its preceding phase. At the programme launch, EU Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Ambassador Samuela Isopi, stated the necessity of a second RoLAC phase to sustain the momentum and continue the EU’s efforts in supporting the Nigerian governments objective of
Of strengthening the rule of law in Nigeria. “It was clear to the European Union that a second phase of the RoLAC was essential to consolidate the progress and continue the commendable work done on enhancing the rule of law in Nigeria,” Ambassador Samuela Isopi remarked during the launch.

Speaking at the conference, the Imo State Commissioner for Women Affairs, Lady Nkechinyere Ugwu, expressed the significance of the conference, stating, “This conference, courtesy of the EU, is very important to us, as it gives us an opportunity to come together, share experiences, and develop practicable solutions for our work, which focuses on human rights and the protection of vulnerable populations.”

Adding to the discourse, the Commissioner of Women Affairs for Abia State, Mrs. Ngozi Blessing Felix, shared her thoughts: “This gathering is a cornerstone for us in Abia State to forge stronger collaborations and innovate on policies that directly impact the lives of women and children. It is an invaluable platform for learning and exchanging ideas that can be transformed into actionable strategies for gender equality and the empowerment of the most vulnerable in our society.”

Through the conference, the EU aims to empower state ministries of women affairs to develop and implement comprehensive strategies that support their mission and mandate. Additionally, the initiative seeks to build the capacity of state Commissioners and Permanent Secretaries for Women Affairs, enabling them to act as visible and effective advocates for policy, advocacy, and action on rights-based issues concerning women, children, and persons with disabilities.

EU, IIDEA engage commissioners of women affairs on gender equality, rights

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To Protect Everyone’s Health, Protect Everyone’s Rights – Leopold Zekeng

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To Protect Everyone’s Health, Protect Everyone’s Rights – Leopold Zekeng

By: Michael Mike

The enactment of Nigeria’s HIV/AIDS Anti-Discrimination Act – a national law hinged on the protection of the rights of people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS from discrimination based on their HIV status, is indeed progressive. However, to date, only about 18 states in Nigeria have domesticated the Act.
Evidence from the Nigeria PLHIV Stigma Index Survey revealed that 24.5% of adults aged 35-44 and 21.7% of young adults aged 18-24 have experienced stigma and discrimination. In some instances, key populations in Nigeria have experienced discrimination, violent law enforcement practices, arrests and other forms of human rights violations. Violence and discrimination against women and girls also remain pervasive. These violations often shove persons living with HIV and key populations to the margins of society, denying them access to life-saving health and social services, including HIV services.
Globally, 38 countries have pledged to end HIV-related stigma and discrimination through the Global Partnership for Action to Eliminate all Forms of HIV-Related Stigma and Discrimination (Global Partnership). These are hard-fought gains. Nonetheless, Nigeria is yet to formally join the Global Partnership.
However, the unwavering commitments and investments by stakeholders including the Nigerian government, National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), UNAIDS, Global Fund, United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and other partners, have been instrumental in catalyzing progress towards ending stigma and discrimination in Nigeria. Communities of persons living with HIV have also been at the frontline of combatting stigma and discrimination. Recently, the Community of Practice to address HIV-related stigma and discrimination in Nigeria was launched by the Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS in Nigeria (NEPWHAN), Association of Women Living with HIV in Nigeria (ASWHAN) & Association of Young People living with HIV in Nigeria (APYIN). The platform seeks to facilitate capacity strengthening, exchange of best practices and promote synergy amongst stakeholders in addressing stigma and discrimination in health care, education, workplace, justice systems, communities, emergency and humanitarian settings.
When marginalized communities are criminalized or stigmatized, their vulnerability to HIV infection increases, and their access to HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support services is obstructed. Countries that are beating the AIDS epidemic are doing so by repealing laws and policies that discriminate, by expanding human rights for all and by allowing marginalized communities to lead the response.
Public health is undermined when laws, policies, practices or norms enshrine punishment, discrimination or stigma for people because they are women, key populations, or persons living with HIV. Discrimination obstructs HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care, and holds back progress towards the end of AIDS.
We have hope, however, from communities on the frontlines. As Dr. Martin Luther King noted, “Social progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of people.” It is the communities most affected by discrimination that are leading the pushback against the erosion of their right to health, against the right to life. They are uniting their efforts to protect and advance human rights. They need, and deserve, all our support. The rights path strengthens entire societies, making them better equipped to deal with the challenges we face today and those that are emerging.
The right to non-discrimination as guaranteed under Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other relevant human rights treaties and standards, is the cornerstone of international human rights law. Having ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and other relevant treaties, the Nigerian government has an obligation to ensure that national laws and policies do not discriminate against people and that all persons including persons living with HIV are protected against such discrimination by third parties.
Furthermore, the Global Aids Strategy requires that all countries including Nigeria create an enabling legal environment by removing punitive laws, introducing and enforcing protective legislations and policies, and eradicating the abuse of criminal and general laws to target people living with HIV and key populations.
Discrimination against anyone is harmful to the health of everyone. For Nigeria to deliver on the promise to end AIDS by 2030, action is urgently needed to advance the protection of the human rights of everyone, everywhere. The Zero Discrimination Day, celebrated around the world every 1 March, presents an opportunity for Nigeria to strengthen its commitment through ensuring the domestication and effective implementation of the HIV/AIDS Anti-Discrimination Act in all states across Nigeria, formally joining the Global Partnership, committing to take actions on HIV-related stigma and discrimination across all six settings; and letting communities lead in addressing stigma and discrimination.
Dr Leopold Zekeng, UNAIDS Nigeria Country Director, writes from Abuja.

To Protect Everyone’s Health, Protect Everyone’s Rights – Leopold Zekeng

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ECOWAS Court Fines Sierra Leone $25,000 for Violent Police Crackdown on Demonstrating Students

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ECOWAS Court Fines Sierra Leone $25,000 for Violent Police Crackdown on Demonstrating Students

By: Michael Mike

The ECOWAS Court of Justice has ordered the Republic of Sierra Leone to pay $25,000 as compensation to Mohamed Morlu, a Sierra Leone citizen, for violating his fundamental human rights.

Morlu had sued the Republic of Sierra Leone after he sustained a gunshot wound during a students’ protest in March 2017, at which officers of the Sierra Leonean police force fired shots to disperse the demonstrators.

Delivering the judgment, Justice Edward Amoako Asante declared that the Respondent state violated Mr. Morlu’s right to security of the person, freedom from torture, the right to an effective remedy contrary to the provisions of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention against Torture.

The Court ordered that the government must pay for any upcoming surgery needed to remove the bullet from the gunshot, which is still stuck in the Applicant’s abdomen. In addition, the Court ruled that the government must quickly investigate, find, and prosecute the officers who shot the Applicant during the student protest and take measures to properly train its law enforcement officers on crowd control.

Morlu was a student at Njala University in Bo City, Sierra Leone, in March 2017 when a four-month strike by lecturers at the University disrupted academic work. On 23 March 2017, students at the University went on a third protest march to present their grievances to the Ministry of Education. In an attempt to disperse the demonstrators, officers from the Operation Support Division (OSD) of the Sierra Leone Police Force fired shots into the crowd, injuring Morlu and other students.

Morlu was hospitalized, underwent surgery, and later sought medical treatment in Ghana due to complications from the bullet.

In its defense to the suit at the ECOWAS Court, the Respondent State asserted that the protesting students blocked roads and obstructed traffic. The police tried to contain the situation but were met with resistance from the students, some of whom pelted the police with stones. In the ensuing escalation, the police fired some warning shots, one of which accidentally injured the Applicant. The Respondent, therefore, denied that it violated Mr. Morlu’s human rights.

In the judgment, the Court rejected the Respondent’s claim that Morlu was injured accidentally, finding that the firing of live ammunition into the crowd of protesting students by the police was unjustified. The Court also upheld the Applicant’s case that he suffered torture and that the Respondent failed to provide effective redress by investigating, identifying, and prosecuting the perpetrators.

The panel of judges were Justice Edward Amoako Asante, Judge Rapporteur for the case, and Justices Gberi-Bè Ouattara and Sengu M. Koroma.

ECOWAS Court Fines Sierra Leone $25,000 for Violent Police Crackdown on Demonstrating Students

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