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Lagos Food Banks sees food support decline

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By Mercy Kelani

Nig. is currently facing its most severe cost of living struggle in many years.

In Lagos, the bustling commercial hub of Nigeria, a group of women line up at a warehouse, eagerly anticipating their turn to collect food supplies. Among the group is Damilola Salami, a 68-year-old widow who received a last-minute invitation to the facility when she was on the brink of running out of food. Salami, a resident relies on the Lagos Food Bank which is experiencing a decline in essential supplies due to a decrease in donations from private and other sources.

This drop in supplies comes at a time when inflation is on the rise in Africa’s largest economy. In recent months, Nigeria has been facing its most severe cost of living struggle in many years. This challenge has intensified following the implementation of ambitious yet divisive economic changes by President Bola Tinubu when he took office in May. Salami voiced her hunger, stating that there was no food available for them to eat while waiting for her portion of food and cooking oil.

Almost half of Nigeria’s population (46%) was classified as poor in 2023.

She expressed concern over their children being unable to attend school due to rising fees, resulting in both hunger and lack of education for the children at home. 80-year-old Mabel Wade, a charcoal vendor, expressed how limited access to food was a constant struggle for her. She shared that she used to depend on the kindness of her neighbours until she discovered the assistance provided by the food bank. Occasionally, there are instances where no food is available.

Other times, all that’s on the menu is a cracker and a glass of water, she mentioned, while applying for food assistance. In Lagos, there was a tragic incident last month at a food distribution centre where seven people lost their lives in a stampede. According to statistics from the World Bank, almost half of Nigeria’s population – 46% to be exact – was classified as poor in the year 2023. Among those living in poverty, twenty million are located in urban regions.

The food bank now exclusively cater to females who are 50+ years old.

Also, the once abundant warehouse of Lagos Food Bank used to be filled to the brim with bags of traditional Nigerian food items such as rice, beans, and vegetable oil. However, things have changed and it is no longer fully stocked. According to the founder Michael Sunbola, a significant reduction in supplies, amounting to 93%, was implemented by the main donor due to the expensive cost of food. Due to decreased resources, the food bank is now only able to offer families a limited amount of supplies that will last for a few days rather than the previous two weeks.

Sunbola mentioned that they are currently in the process of targeting a specific group of individuals to utilize the service, implying a need to limit the outreach efforts to a select few. He stated in a recent report that the food bank now exclusively cater to females who are 50 years old and above. An organization known as No Hunger Initiatives operates a food bank that primarily assists individuals who have been displaced within the city of Abuja.

Related Article: FG should start Initiatives to Curb Hunger

Additionally, this organization encounters challenges that are comparable to those experienced by the Lagos Food Bank. Kumdet Yilkon, a senior official, reported that the food distribution facility is struggling to meet the needs of a rapidly increasing number of individuals seeking assistance. Despite a tripling in the number of people requesting food handouts since May 2023, supplies have been reduced by half as donors have scaled back due to inflation of the prices of food stuff.

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