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Russia-Ukraine War: IFAD Raises Alarm Over Food Shortages, High Prices

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The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), yesterday, raised the alarm over food shortages and high prices hitting parts of Africa as a result of the raging war between Russia and Ukraine.
Making this known was the President of IFAD, Gilbert Houngbo, while expressing deep concern over the impact it has on the Near East and North Africa.
He pointed out that it will be tragedy for the world’s poorest people living in rural areas who cannot absorb the price hikes of staple foods.
Meanwhile, according to IFAD, a quarter of global wheat exports come from Russia and Ukraine.
Forty percent of wheat and corn from Ukraine go to the Middle East and Africa, which are already grappling with hunger issues, and where further food shortages or price increases risk pushing millions more people into poverty.
Russia is also the world’s largest fertiliser producer.
Even before the conflict, spikes in fertiliser prices last year contributed to a rise in food prices by about 30percent.
IFAD’s analysis looks at the impact that the war will have on already poor small-scale producers and rural communities.
He said: “I am deeply concerned that the violent conflict in Ukraine, already a catastrophe for those directly involved, will also be a tragedy for the world’s poorest people living in rural areas who cannot absorb the price hikes of staple foods and farming inputs that will result from disruptions to global trade.
“We are already seeing price hikes and this could cause an escalation of hunger and poverty with dire implications for global stability.”
However, IFAD warned that as the war continues to rage in Ukraine, impacts of rising food prices and shortages of staple crops are already being felt in the Near East and North Africa region and spreading to the world’s most vulnerable countries, including in the Horn of Africa, with poorest people at greatest risk.
IFAD’s analysis shows that price increases in staple foods, fuel and fertiliser and other ripple effects of the conflict are having a dire impact on the poorest rural communities.
For example: In Somalia, where an estimated 3.8million people are already severely food insecure, the costs of electricity and transportation have spiked due to fuel price increases.
This has a disproportionate impact on poor small-scale farmers and pastoralists who, in the face of erratic rainfall and an ongoing drought, rely on irrigation-fed agriculture powered by small diesel engines for their survival.
In Egypt, prices of wheat and sunflower oil have escalated due to Egypt’s reliance on Russia and Ukraine for 85percent of its wheat supply and 73percent of its sunflower oil.
In Lebanon, 22 per cent of families are food insecure and food shortages or further price hikes will exacerbate an already desperate situation.
The country imports up to 80percent of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine, but can only store about one month’s worth of the crop at a time due to the blast in Beirut’s port in 2020 that destroyed the country’s major grain silos.
Central Asian countries that rely on remittances sent home by migrant workers in Russia have been hit hard by the devaluation of the Russian ruble.
In Kyrgyzstan, for example, remittances make up more than 31per cent of the GDP, the majority of which comes from Russia.
Remittances are crucial for migrants’ families in rural areas to access food, education and other necessities.
IFAD’s experts stress that small-scale producers are already reeling from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, droughts, cyclones and other natural disasters.
Their incomes are expected to be affected by the rising cost of inputs, reduced food supplies and disrupted markets.
This is also likely to have devastating and long-term impacts on their nutrition and food security.
However, IFAD is working closely with governments, rural communities and other partners and exploring ways to step up global support to the regions most affected, including building on its Facility for Refugees, Migrants, Forced Displacement and Rural Stability (FARMS), which supports agricultural livelihood opportunities for refugees and host communities.
It is also intensifying its work to reduce post-harvest losses, improve storage and strengthen local and regional food markets.
The IFAD boss also maintained that, “IFAD is committed to increasing the resilience of the world’s poorest rural people who are critical for producing a third of the world’s food.
“We must do all we can to ensure they have the resources to keep producing food and be protected from additional shocks.
“In the short-term, however, it will be difficult to mitigate the global impacts of his crisis. I join the UN Secretary-General’s call to end the conflict now and restore peace. It is the only solution to avert global catastrophe.”
IFAD’s experience during previous food crises shows that interventions such as stabilising local market systems, cash transfers, strengthening remittances, setting up savings and loans groups, training and subsidies for agricultural enterprises, and value chain investments (including infrastructure, support for microfinance institutions, aggregation services that link farmers to markets) are effective in building resilience and reducing the impact of shocks.
IFAD will draw on this experience and its unique expertise as an International Financial Institution and UN rural development agency to guide its response to the current crisis.

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World Bank To Fund $30bn Projects In Nigeria, Others

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The World Bank has said it is set to disburse a total of $30billion to fund existing and new projects in Nigeria and other countries as part of a global response to combat the ongoing food security crisis.
According to the bank, it is working with countries on a $12billion new projects fund for the next 15 months.
It said the projects are expected to support agriculture, social protection to cushion the effects of higher food prices, and water and irrigation projects.
It added that most of the funds would go to Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and South Asia.
The global bank disclosed this when it announced how it plans to be part of a comprehensive, global response to the ongoing food security crisis.
It stated that it intends to roll out this fund in existing and new projects in agriculture, nutrition, social protection, water, and irrigation.
It said, “This financing will include efforts to encourage food and fertiliser production, enhance food systems, facilitate greater trade, and support vulnerable households and producers.”
World Bank Group President, David Malpass, said, “Food price increases are having devastating effects on the poorest and most vulnerable.
“To inform and stabilise markets, it is critical that countries make clear statements now of future output increases in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Countries should make concerted efforts to increase the supply of energy and fertilizer, help farmers increase plantings and crop yields, and remove policies that block exports and imports, divert food to biofuel, or encourage unnecessary storage.”
The bank added that its current existing portfolio includes balances of $18.7billion in projects with direct links to food and nutrition security issues, covering agriculture and natural resources, nutrition, social protection, and other sectors.
It stated, “Altogether, this would amount to over $30billion available for implementation to address food insecurity over the next 15 months. This response will draw on the full range of Bank financing instruments and be complemented by analytical work.”

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FG Postpones FAAC Meeting Over AGF’s N80bn Probe

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The Federal Government has announced the postponement of May, 2022 Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) meeting.
The sudden postponement may not be unconnected with the ongoing investigation of the suspended Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, over alleged fraud to the tune of N80billion.
The FAAC meeting is a monthly meeting where the federation allocates monthly revenue among the three tiers of government.
The meeting had earlier been scheduled to hold virtually between May 18 and 19, 2022.
The Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, said this in a letter signed by Director, Home Finance,Stephen Okon.
The ministry said the meeting was postponed due to “certain circumstances.
“I am directed to inform you that the Federation Account/Allocation Committee (FAAC) meetings earlier scheduled to hold/virtually on the 18th and 19th May, 2022 have been postponed due to/certain circumstances,” the circular reads.
“In view of the foregoing, I am to further inform you that the new date for the meetings will be forwarded to you in due course.
“While we regret the inconveniences this change might cause you, please accept the assurances of the Minister’s warm regards,” the letter read in part.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had on Monday arrested and detained Idris over an alleged N80billion fraud.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, announced indefinite suspension of Idris, last Wednesday.
Ahmed said the suspension “without pay” was to allow for “proper and unhindered investigation” in line with public service rules.

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Nigerian Out-Of-School Children Hit 18.5m

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Nigeria has 18.5million out-of-school children (OSC), the highest number in the world, and out of the figure, 10million are girls, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has said.
The Chief of UNICEF Field Office in Kano, Rahama Farah, stated this at a media dialogue on ‘Girls’ Education under the Girls’ Education Project 3, GEP 3’, funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), and implemented by UNICEF.
“For those lucky to be in school, their condition is also not enviable given the situation of public schools in the country. Only recently, the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), said 50per cent of schools in Nigeria lack basic furniture”Farah said.
The Executive Secretary of the commission, Hamid Bobboyi, said this in Abuja at a one-day civil society organisations’ CSO-Legislative Roundtable Meeting where some National and State Houses of Assembly members were present.
According to him, emerging constraints in basic education delivery in the country may necessitate an increase in the consolidated revenue funds from the current two per cent to four per cent.
He buttressed his position for an increase in funding on the security challenges bedevilling the country, insisting that rising student population also poses urgent need for teaching facilities.
Also speaking, the Chairman of Senate Committee on Basic Education, represented by Senator Frank Ibezim, decried the failure of State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEBs), to sustain some UBEC-initiated projects such as classrooms and libraries earlier introduced by the commission in all constituencies in the country.
While commending UBEC over the construction of classrooms in schools across the country, he lamented the poor maintenance culture, noting that there is no school in the country that does not have a dilapidated block.
A representative of MacArthur Foundation, Mr Dayo Olaoye, called on stakeholders to review the impact of the country’s annual budget on education, stressing that it was not enough that the country is increasing its budget to the sector.
“As we think about reforms, let us think beyond buildings that have been delivered, let us start thinking about how many children have been brought to school,” he said.
“If classrooms are dilapidated, and there are not enough furniture, what about teachers and the quality of the ones available? The Registrar, Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), Prof. Josiah Ajiboye, said there are over 300,000 unqualified teachers in the system.
“Education is very important to be left in the hands of quacks and that is why at TRCN, we are stepping up efforts at ridding the system of unqualified hands. We implore teachers and their employers to take advantage of the various windows TRCN is providing to improve the quality of teachers in the country so as to get better results from our education system,” he said.
For the General Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Dr Mike Ene, there is need for better funding of the education sector.
He noted that in many states, teachers are overwhelmed by the number of pupils and students they handle.
“In so many states, there is inadequacy of teachers. Some states have not recruited teachers in the last 10 years and yearly, teachers are leaving the system through retirement, resignation or even death. Worse hit by poor staffing are schools in the rural areas. Such schools are called hard-to-staff schools.”
It is in that regard that the welfare packages announced by the Federal Government are very much necessary,” he said.
Also speaking on the issue, the National President of the National Association of Parent-Teacher Association of Nigeria (NAPTAN), Alhaji Haruna Danjuma, decried the manner some state governments are implementing the Basic Education Policy of the government whereby pupils and students in primary and junior secondary schools are to enjoy free education and are given textbooks in some core subjects.
“Some states are not doing well in that respect. They have abandoned the programme. They are not funding education as it ought to be funded. Even counterpart funds that some states should put down to complement the funds from UBEC are not provided. Some states have even misused UBEC funds and are suspended from getting further grants.
“We are talking now about our tertiary institutions that are grounded by workers’ strikes, the basic education level, which is the foundation, is not faring better too. Something urgent must be done to redress the situation before the sector collapses finally,” he noted.

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