Volunteers gesture as they direct an elderly woman at an ongoing distribution of food parcels, during a lockdown by the…
Volunteers gesture as they direct an elderly woman at an ongoing distribution of food parcels, during a lockdown by the authories in efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Lagos, April 9, 2020.

GENEVA - Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy and most populous country, is reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. A steep drop in international oil prices, Nigeria’s major export, since the outbreak of the coronavirus has sparked fears of a recession. 

Nearly 12,500 cases of coronavirus, including 354 deaths are confirmed in Nigeria. The United Nations reports lockdown measures aimed at containing spread of the deadly disease could result in as many as 13 million job losses if the restrictions go on for very much longer. 

The World Food Program warns this would unleash a situation of widespread hunger in a country where some 90 million people live on less than $2 a day. In response, the agency says it plans to scale up its operations to feed three million of the neediest people. 

WFP spokeswoman, Elisabeth Byrs says among those who will benefit from the program are city-dwellers in Kano, Abuja and Lagos who are particularly hard hit by the socio-economic knock-on effects from COVID-19. 

Others who will receive increased food and nutrition support, she says, are women, men and children affected by a decade-long insurgency in the north-eastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. 

“We are concerned about conflict-affected communities in the north-east Nigeria who already face extreme hunger and who are especially vulnerable. They are on life-support and need assistance to survive,” she said. 

Byrs says WFP is distributing a two-months’ supply of food and nutrition assistance in camps for displaced people to make sure they have enough to eat during the COVID lockdown period. 

She says WFP is providing technical support to strengthen government-run social protection programs. These include feeding programs for some nine million children who are missing out on meals because of COVID-19 school closures. 

The agency is urgently appealing for $182 million to provide crucial assistance over the next six months in Nigeria. Much of the aid, it notes, will help people whose livelihoods and incomes have taken a big hit by COVID-19.