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Hunger in Nigeria: Calling for Strategic Focus of International Development Aids

In 2003, the wife of my cousin died at child birth. Doctors traced the death to hunger related complications. The baby also died. Her four surviving children were malnourished and sick. It was an intervention of intense food supplementing that revived the four kids.

Though the US government currently supports many development needs including health, education, HIV/AIDS, economic growth, environmental protection, and democratic governance in Nigeria, hunger eradication should be made its top development investment. Failing to address-and prioritize-hunger is a strategic mistake as the devastating effects of hunger leave Nigerians vulnerable to the point that other US aid efforts are rendered less-effective. Hunger is the first problem faced by the very people US strives to help through its generous supports.

The Global Hunger Index (GHI) reports that about 40 percent of Nigerian children under age five are stunted in their growth, nine percent are wasted (have low weight given their height) and 25 percent are underweight, all due to hunger. It further shows that two out of every five children in Nigeria are chronically underfed. As a country, Nigeria ranks in the GHI’s top 20 nations most ravaged by hunger, accounting for 5.7 percent of hunger problems in the world. The report also shows that Nigeria is making slow progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goal targets on reducing the incidence of hunger by half by the year 2015. In sum, we know that hunger in Nigeria remains at a level categorized as “serious,” wreaking devastating effects on Nigerians, especially the women and children who are often marginalized in families and societies dominated by men.

The right to food is basic and non-negotiable. This implies that the state has an obligation to provide and protect citizens’ access to adequate food. This obligation has not been met in Nigeria. Statistics available show that about 65 percent Nigerians have insufficient access to the amount of food required to keep them healthy and fit to embrace activities for the nation’s development. This is mainly due to price spikes and excessive food price volatility, two concerns which disproportionately affect poor and hungry people. This is an issue begging for concern and urgent attention from any international development aid agency interested in Nigeria.

We also know that hunger is a critical risk factor contributing to myriad of other social problems, including those the US has sought to address in Nigeria. For instance, medical scientists including Kadiyala S. and others in ‘Rethinking food aid to fight HIV/AIDS,’ presented during the Washington DC Food Consumption and Nutrition Division Discussion, stated that undernourished people infected with HIV/AIDS develop the full symptoms of the disease more quickly than people who are well-fed. Again the Food and Agricultural Organization stated that peoples’ learning ability is always compromised by hunger. This supports the argument that intelligent quotients for children and adults who are well-fed are always higher than those who are hungry. Intellectually and physically, people perform better and are more resilient to disease when they feed well.

The US has a distinct opportunity to increase efficacy of all its aid projects in Nigeria by addressing hunger first. Intense anti-hunger activities are capable of improving Nigerians’ life in many ways and, consequently, positively impact other development goals around health, education, and HIV/AIDS. Indeed, Nigeria cannot sustainably establish reasonable health and education services, good governance, stability, and economic growth while hunger is so badly affecting the people who are supposed to be beneficiaries of such development projects.

The World Food Program states that one out of seven people from the developing world go to bed hungry. Nigeria is an emerging democracy with a teeming population of about 140 million, a large proportion of whom face hunger each night. The US, a world superpower and a great force advocating for positive change in Nigeria; will improve the efficacy and impact of its development efforts in this country by addressing hunger first. As a witness to the effects of hunger in my country—and in my own family—I urge the US to re-prioritize its efforts to support anti-hunger projects. Consider the learning abilities of hunger-ravaged children. Consider the amount of impact HIV care program will have on individuals’ non-boosted immune system.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous new media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

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Kristin Miller's picture

SUCCESS!

Celine, this op-ed is a powerful, clear, impassioned call for the US to reprioritize its development endeavors in Nigeria. Your argument is both succinct and convincing and the inclusion of your personal experience suggests the real urgency of the issue. What's more, this piece represents an *extraordinary* creative and critical process-- you proved yourself as one of the most committed and hard-working people I know! You inspire me!

Kudos to you, Celine, on a job very, very well done!

Kristin

Celine's picture

SUCCESS

My Powerful Midwife,

Thank you for guiding me wonderfully well in this learning process. I must tell you, I enjoy working with you. During this writing on op-ed, though more tasking than the previous writings, I must thank you for the challenges you put to me, which motivated me and made me creative. I remember you sending me your thought, and how I argued it back to you. I draw more confidence from the arguments, and came up with more issues to defend my argument. I am happy that I am able to convince you. This is a learning experience I will never forget in my life.

Thank you dear Kristin for assisting in honing my voice and sharpening it to be more vocal.

Celine.

Okeny-Lucia's picture

Hunger in Africa is our undoing

Thank you Celine for raising such pertinent issue and real problems at hand.
My concerns are as follows in view of the op-ed
With the rich resources in Africa and the favorable weather,In the 21st Century you would think that things would be better.

Lol! Africa is languishing in poverty hunger,for partly our own making starting from the family to the government.If we would only set our priorities right.

I stand to be corrected if only we refused to live by the day,and look into the future generation some of the calamities we suffer like hunger,diseases could be averted.I read with so much concern what is happening in Nigeria,Sudan,Egypt and all other countries and what strikes is the insensitivity of our own leaders in tackling real problems in Africa.

There is this book by Dambisa Moyo '' DEAD AID'',it is a must read for any leader in Africa to see where is our problem.No amount of aid will save us if our priorities are not straight.

Lucia Buyanza
Reproductive Health

Celine's picture

Hunger in Africa

Thank you Lucia for your comment. Yes, in every corrupt society, resources meant to take care of the people are diverted to personal gains. The effects of this are hunger, diseases, poverty, which are made manifest in the lives of the marginalized and vulnerable groups including women, disabled persons and children.
My opinion here is that the US international aid agency should prioritize project in Nigeria by focusing more on eradication of hunger, which is taking toll of lives in Nigeria.

Cheers,
Celine

Stella Paul's picture

The tagging

Hi Celine

Your tagging needs to be changed. Since we are now VoF 2012, the year needs to reflect in the tagging. You can see this in the classroom http://www.worldpulse.com/pulsewire/programs/voices-of-our-future-classr...

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

Celine's picture

The tagging

Hi Stella,

Thank you for the observation. It is corrected.

Celine.

Stella Paul's picture

Great!

And now a few words on your post. First of all, congrats on crossing another important level with this great program Celine! And the issue that you have raised is very important. I hope USAID will indeed change the course of its action and put the money where its really needed - feeding the hungry.

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

Celine's picture

Great!

Thank you Stella for your comment. I just pray that the US will change the course of its action in Nigeria by focusing more on investing in saving lives ravaged by hunger.

Celine

usha kc's picture

Celine,, your voice is so

Celine,, your voice is so powerful dear.
you always done so beautifully and this time too.
hugs

Celine's picture

Thank you dear Sis. We have

Thank you dear Sis.

We have to passionately speak out on issues that bother us.

Hugs dear.
Celine

Monica Clarke's picture

Dear Celine

Your thinking and analysis gives a deep insight into a problem which should never have been. Oh dear! Are we not born to be nurtured? Yet this is not the experience of a lot of us, especially our children. What sadness that so many children are not able to reach their full potential because we are in a world which supports the strong and take from the weak.

Thank you Celine. Your writing is pointing the finger in the right direction - to the state - whilst at the same time you write with understanding and passion. Let us together keep looking to see what each of us can start doing in our little corners to make the light of change for our children stronger.

With respect from Monica in France

Monica Clarke, Writer & Storyteller, bringing human rights alive.
I wish you 'Nangamso', that is: May you continue to do the good work which you do so well.
(A blessing from my ancestors, the Khoikhoi, the first people of South Africa).

Celine's picture

Dear Monica

Thank you for your nice comment.

Yes, I know some countries are not experiencing hunger, but some do. It is really sad that so many children are not able to reach their full potential because of hunger.

Regards,
Celine

BlueSky's picture

It's Fundamental

Your article really hit home with me Celine. I tell you the truth: I hear everyday from people telling me they are hungry and asking for food. It is so frustrating that people are hungry. It's not that there is a lack of food here - it's just not made available to the hungry. And you have to wonder how that is possible in this day and age. As you say: "the right to food is basic and non-negotiable." And you further make the point that it is a fundamental to every facet of life. I appreciate the fact that you were able to substantiate that which we inherently know with cold, hard, facts, to drive that point home to those in leadership whose overstuffed stomachs have somehow caused them to become cold and hardened to that fundamental.

Great job Celine; really.

Celine's picture

It's Fundamental

Thank you sis for your comment.

Yes, the right to food is non-negotiable but just as you pointed out, it is often neglected in societies and by policy makers. Again, I think because right to food is fundamental, policy makers do believe that 'all is well' since every individual should have had food before coming to negotiable tables. The strategic neglect to address this fundamental issue in so many countries have caused elimination of lives of so many people who are on the fringe of societies. But you know-- these people do not have access to negotiation tables to speak on their predicaments. And that is where citizen journalists who live among the people come in, to bring to limelight those fundamental issues that are being neglected.

I just pray that this piece gets attention from the appropriate place.

noreens's picture

A very good op-ed, Celine!

A very good op-ed, Celine! It's obvious that you put a lot of time into researching this, and it was well worth the effort. I hope that the US will prioritize the many social and health issues that they support in Nigeria. (I lived in Nigeria for 9 years - many fond memories!)

Noreen

Celine's picture

A very good op-ed

Thank you Noreen. Good to know that you have lived in Nigeria for a good number of years.
I pray that issues will be prioritized to save as many lives as possible.

Cheers
Celine.

Michelle Coburn's picture

Powerful piece

Dear Celine,

This is a powerful piece and you are clear in your wish for foreign aid to be rerouted to the heart of the many social and economic issues your country faces. Yes, how can children learn on an empty stomach? How can adults work and drive the economy when they don't know where their next meal is coming from? This is true of South Africa also...
Thank you for sharing your vision through your Op-Ed, which I think is an excellent read. Here's to hoping it makes a difference - I am sure it will.

Best wishes
Michelle

Celine's picture

Powerful piece

Dear Michelle,

Thank you for your nice comment.
Yes, I had the experience while in school. It is extremely hard to learn when a child's stomach is empathy. No matter how brilliant a child is, the brain will not function well when the child is hungry. Instead of learning, the tasked brain will become blank as the body system become weaker and weaker. Yes, adults cannot work and drive the economy when there is no hope of their next meal.
The issue of hunger is common in many countries, just that it depends on the level or class and percentage of the population affected. Often times, the international aid agencies focus on worn-torn countries or disaster affected communities, but the truth is that in any country where a good percentage of the population are poor, hunger remains a major but silent contributor of so many health and social problems.

I pray that the message conveyed through this op-ed makes a difference in my country.

Regards,
Celine

ikirimat's picture

Indeed foreign aid should be

Indeed foreign aid should be aligned to local needs . I pray the US heeds to your wish. Thanks again for your enriching OpED

Grace Ikirimat

"It takes the hammer of persistence to drive the nail of success."


Celine's picture

Thank you Grace for reading

Thank you Grace for reading my Op-Ed and for your nice comment.

Celine.

vivian's picture

Thank u celine for picking

Thank u celine for picking this topic. It is indeed necessary for the US govt to conduct their projects according to the priorities of the people, if there really wants a change in Nigeria.

Vivian

''Every woman have a story at every stage of Life''

Celine's picture

Thank you dear Sister Vivian.

Thank you dear Sister Vivian. I am not only passionate about the issue of hunger in Nigeria but have deep feeling for the majority of the common people who are affected by the complications of suffering hunger for a long period.

I pray that every development aid to Nigeria should prioritize projects according to the urgency and relevance to the teeming population of poor and needy Nigerians.

Regards,
Celine.

Rachael Maddock-Hughes's picture

Great Article!

Straight, to the point and powerful. I commend you for taking this on!

Keep up the great work,

Rachael

"In every human heart there are a few passions that last a lifetime. They're with us from the moment we're born, and nothing can dilute their intensity." Rob Brezny

Celine's picture

Thank you dear Rachael.

Thank you dear Rachael. Passion is always a driving force, pushing us to speak from the bottom of our heart.

Celine.

Dear Celine,

I have returned from my travels to find this excellent OP-ED from you. Your writing continues to be more and more powerful, your voice emerging with elegance and wisdom. I am compelled to find out who is making decisions about our aid to Nigeria from USAID organizations and make sure they read this! I don't know the protocol for releasing your assignments to the outside world but this is a professional and deeply compelling piece.

Well done. You are a light in this world.

Christie

Thank you so much my dear Mentor. Welcome back! You know I miss you. Thank you for the photo. Hope the conference was marvelous.

Rachael has sent us information on guides to pitching the op-ed. I think you should also receive the mails. Is it possible we meet and discuss on Skype on Sunday? I have a busy week but I will send a mail to your box before close of day of Friday.

Blessings,
Celine

Shirley Clark's picture

USAID

Hi Celine,

A sign of a great op-ed is when one becomes interested in knowing more about the subject. After reading your article, I searched to find the priorities of USAID. The most recent document I can find is from April 2011 and indeed, addressing hunger is not listed. Thank you for bringing this topic to our attention. I will now make sure it is part of my world as I discuss current events with friends and colleagues.

So everyone can easily find it - here are the top priorities identified last April by Director Rajiv Shah on global health:
1) Improving maternal health. USAID plans to support best practices to make childbirth safer in hospital and community settings.
2) Vaccines. USAID will support expansion of rotavirus and pneumococcal vaccines, as well as older vaccines.
3) Malaria. USAID will continue supporting the 17 priority countries of the President’s Malaria Initiative.
4) Tuberculosis. USAID will support development of new tools. As Shaw said, “We need a whole new approach to tuberculosis.”
5) HIV – Turning the tide, developed by Eric Goosby and Zeke Emanual

Thank you again for a provocative and educational piece.

I wish you the best for continued advocacy.

Shirley

Celine's picture

USAID

Hi Shirley,

Thank you for taking your time-- taking extra step to confirm the priorities of USAID. Hunger is not listed hence the effects are devastating to millions of Nigerians, especially the women and children-- whose immune level are low considering discrimination and marginalization instituted by patriarchy; and high level of poverty among the groups that live on the brink of society.

The level of diseases are aggravated by low level immune system-- when it is common for people to continuously go to bed hungry.

I am glad my op-ed has attracted your attention. I highly appreciate, making it an issue of current event is worth doing as addressing hunger will make the listed programs more effective.

Thank you Shirley for your encouraging words, I hope to do my best for continued advocacy, especially on issues which affect the voiceless groups in my community.

Regards,
Celine.

Celine's picture

USAID

Hi Shirley,

Thank you for taking your time-- taking extra step to confirm the priorities of USAID. Hunger is not listed hence the effects are devastating to millions of Nigerians, especially the women and children-- whose immune level are low considering discrimination and marginalization instituted by patriarchy; and high level of poverty among the groups that live on the brink of society.

The level of diseases are aggravated by low level immune system-- when it is common for people to continuously go to bed hungry.

I am glad my op-ed has attracted your attention. I highly appreciate, making it an issue of current event is worth doing as addressing hunger will make the listed programs more effective.

Thank you Shirley for your encouraging words, I hope to do my best for continued advocacy, especially on issues which affect the voiceless groups in my community.

Regards,
Celine.

Greengirl's picture

Dear Sister

You are a true Patriot. Thank you once again for for steering the sheep in the right direction, through your article. Nigerians sure have you to thank for caring for their stomachs; enough to advocate for the prioritization of Food Aid.

It is my prayer that what you advocated for will catch the attention of USAID and other international development partners!

All the best!

Celine's picture

Dear Sister

I so much appreciate you for reading my writing. Sure, the effects of hunger in Nigeria is obvious to anybody working at the grass root level of our society. Sister, for seeing reason and agreeing with this writing, you are also a patriotic Nigerian, showing care for the welfare of our people.
Thank you for joining me in this prayer, hopefully the attention of USAID is drawn.

My warm regards,
Celine

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