Averting famine, Action Against Hunger, Nigeria, Borno

Averting famine in Northeast Nigeria: answering the call

Progress one year after declaration of emergency in Borno State

By Action Against Hunger

Jul 14 2017

“Boko Haram burned our village down. They left us with only the clothes we are wearing,” said an elderly man Action Against Hunger found living in an abandoned school in the community of Monguno in Borno State in northeast Nigeria. “All our sources of income and livelihood have been taken away from us. We are no beggars here.”

Across northeast Nigeria, as a result of the brutal conflict between military forces and the insurgency group Boko Haram, 2.1 million people have been uprooted by violence and left without shelter, health care, clean water or food.

In July 2016, a state of emergency was declared in Borno State in northeast Nigeria in response to critical levels of malnutrition and an elevated risk of famine in conflict zones. According to analyses conducted by Action Against Hunger and other experts,  5.2 million are experiencing food shortages as of July 2017. Of those, 59,500 people in parts of Borno State are facing famine conditions, and UNICEF warns that an estimated 244,000 children in Borno are acutely malnourished.

We do not use the word famine lightly: it is a rare and highly technical classification used to categorise only the most extreme, deadly hunger emergencies, which are almost always triggered by war. In response to the threat of famine in Borno, Action Against Hunger mobilised immediately.

Within days, we deployed our expert rapid response team and conducted an initial emergency assessment in Monguno, a previously inaccessible area in Borno that had been cut off from humanitarian assistance for almost two years. Within weeks, we launched a comprehensive new emergency programme in Monguno — and we began scaling up existing programmes in the city of Maiduguri. Within months, we mobilised new emergency interventions in 4 other previously inaccessible areas in Borno.

By April, 2017, Action Against Hunger was providing 20-25 per cent of all the emergency food assistance delivered to the population threatened by famine in northeast Nigeria. Today, our assessments indicate that our interventions have successfully reduced prevalence of acute malnutrition below emergency thresholds in the areas where we have access to people in need.


We are immensely proud of our team in Nigeria for rising to the challenge—often putting their own lives at risk to reach families cut off from help.

However, we cannot do this work alone. The incredible outpouring of compassion and support from our donors over the past 11 months has made it possible for us to rise to the challenge. On behalf of our dedicated aid workers on the ground in northeast Nigeria, we would like to thank you for answering the call for help.

Here is what we have achieved in Borno State over the past 11 months since we launched a response to the elevated risk of famine.  


In response to the elevated risk of famine in Borno State, Action Against Hunger scaled up existing programmes in the city of Maiduguri and launched new emergency interventions in five newly accessible areas in north Borno.

  • Maiduguri city (scaled up existing programmes)
  • Jere (new emergency programme)
  • Magumeri  (new emergency programme)
  • Kukawa (new emergency programme)
  • Ngazai (new emergency programme)
  • Monguno LGA (new emergency programme)


Thanks to the generous support of donors, Action Against Hunger has delivered lifesaving humanitarian assistance to 425,131 people in conflict-affected communities in Borno State since August 2016. Here are some highlights.

Food Security and Livelihoods: 216,968 people 

  • Provided emergency food assistance via cash transfers to cover urgent survival needs of 51,000 people
  • Distributed monthly emergency food rations and cooking kits to 131,085 people
  • Supported 3903 families with microgardens to improve nutrition and access to food, including training and distribution of seeds, cash, and kitchen garden equipment
  • Helped 1,041 families improve income through livelihood training and support

Water, sanitation, and hygiene: 136,026 people 

  • Rehabilitated 27 boreholes for access to safe water for displaced families and vulnerable members of host communities
  • Built 192 latrines and 153 shower facilities to improve sanitation and hygiene in informal camps for displaced populations in Maiduguri.
  • Provided 20,440 households with emergency relief items, temporary shelter, and emergency hygiene kits and promoted hygiene education to prevent waterbourne diseases

Emergency health services and treatment for malnutrition: 72,137 people

  • Delivered lifesaving screening and treatment to 4,885 acutely malnourished children
  • Provided supplementary food to prevent acute malnutrition among 9,749 pregnant women and nursing mothers and 18,199 children
  • Rehabilitated health facilities and trained local health workers and community volunteers to screen and treat malnutrition
  • Educated 8, 693 pregnant women and nursing mothers to prevent malnutrition through proper care and feeding practices through “mother-to-mother support groups.”  


We have made progress in averting famine in Borno State, and fighting hunger across other areas of northeast Nigeria, nonetheless our work is far from done. Needs remain immense and the international humanitarian response remains underfunded and rainy season has begun in the northeast, making access to communities challenging and increases the risk of hunger and waterborne diseases like cholera and malaria.

Action Against Hunger’s Country Director in Nigeria, Yannick Pouchalan, warns: “Food stocks are very limited, and the rainy season will put vulnerable children at even greater risk from threats such as malaria. We must do everything in our power not only to provide shelter, psychosocial support, comprehensive primary health care, and sanitation and but also deliver longer-term solutions to help people rebuild their livelihoods.”

We will not give up, no matter what it takes, until children in Nigeria are safe from the threat of famine.


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Images: © Guy Calaf for Action Against Hunger UK