Meals safety and livelihood in hard-to-reach areas of Borno State, Nigeria (August-September 2020) – Nigeria


The continuation of the conflict in northeastern Nigeria has led to a complex humanitarian crisis that makes parts of Borno state difficult to reach for humanitarian actors. The protracted conflict is characterized by growing insecurities, which limit the access of those affected to livelihoods and food. Due to the inaccessibility of much of the Local Government Areas (LGAs) in Borno state outside of the LGA capitals or “garrison towns”, humanitarian actors have no access to people who are shown to be in urgent need of food aid to bring people to life in H2R- Areas of high risk of food insecurity and unhealthy consequences.

Twice a year, the Cadre Harmonisé (CH) analysis is carried out for 16 states in Nigeria, including the state of Borno. The CH is an early warning system that is harmonized with the IPC framework (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification) and is intended to provide key decision-makers with information on the food and nutrition situation in West Africa and the Sahel zone, as well as on measures for reaction planning. Against the background of the CH analysis, REACH carried out an assessment in order to provide an additional source of qualitative data for selected high-risk LGAs in H2R areas of the state of Borno. The assessment aims to provide comprehensive information on the underlying vulnerabilities in the population, the occurrence and impact of shocks, and how people in H2R areas develop strategies to deal with the lack of access to food.

This mission is divided into three sections. The first section describes the underlying vulnerabilities of the population in H2R areas, including their food sources and access to livelihoods. The second section then focuses on the occurrence and effects of the reported shocks. Finally, the third section focuses on strategies developed by people in H2R areas to cope with the lack of access to food.

The results presented in this letter come from 28 in-depth interviews conducted between August 11 and September 21, 2020 with key informants (KIs) from 27 different H2R settlements in LGAs in Bama, Damboa, Guzamala and Gwoza, who discussed settlement-wide circumstances reports, were collected. The results only provide information about the experiences of the people in these settlements. Further information on the sampling strategy and method can be found in the description of services and in the special “Methodological note” on page 6.


The findings presented in this letter suggest very unstable access to food in the settlements studied, which has been reported to lead to exhaustion and the use of extreme coping strategies in some areas. The exhaustion and severity of the coping strategies reported suggest that people are relying on unsustainable and inadequate strategies for accessing food. Coupled with the persistent risk of shock, the lack of coping skills can lead to food insecurity situations. Probably due to limited access to food, some AIs reported deaths from starvation in two LGAs (Bama and Gwoza).

  • Several shocks affecting people’s access to food and livelihoods were mentioned in evaluated settlements in all LGAs.
    The most frequently reported shock were conflict-related incidents, looting, flooding, drought and disease.

  • The impact of the described shocks were similar for the different reported shocks and included mainly changes in farming practices, less access to food (now and in the future) and reduced financial access to food.

  • Most AIs reported that people in their settlements had only agriculture and cultivation as a source of food. Having only a single source of food suggests that people living in the H2R settlements are very susceptible to livelihood disruptions.

  • Reports indicate that people in H2R settlements have used a wide range of coping strategies to deal with the lack of access to food.
    The most commonly reported coping strategy used by people in the H2R settlements was eating wild forage, which is usually not part of people’s diet. Stricter coping strategies included eating wild foods that make people sick, spending days without food, and begging for food.

  • It has been reported that single households with a female head face additional challenges in accessing food and livelihoods compared to households with a male head. Some AIs described that challenges faced by female-headed single households force some women to engage in negative coping mechanisms such as transactional sex.

  • Worryingly, AIs reported exhaustion of coping skills, suggesting that lack of access to food cannot be managed.

  • Persistent hunger was described by 13 AIs from the assessed settlements in the LGAs. Of particular concern was that 1 KI from Bama and 6 KI from Gwoza attributed some deaths to starvation.

  • Death attributed to hunger has been highlighted by KIs from Bama and Gwoza, which may suggest that some settlements are experiencing high levels of food insecurity.

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