The World Food Programme on Monday said COVID-19 had grown beyond health crisis into global food pandemic of historical proportions.
It noted that an estimated 200,000 persons would receive food and cash assistance in COVID-19 urban hotspots of Kano, Lagos and Abuja.
The global non-governmental organisation commenced distribution of food items and cash assistance to 67,000 vulnerable persons in Kano State, to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 pandemic.
WFP Country Representative, Paul Howe, while speaking at the inauguration of the One UN Basket Fund Project in Kano on Monday, said the intervention focused on supporting vulnerable families affected by the pandemic in Kano and Lagos states as well as the Federal Capital Territory.
He said the intervention was necessary in view of the fact that COVID-19 had grown beyond health crisis into a global food pandemic of historical proportions.
This, he said, was the first time the WFP was expanding its outreach to urban areas in Nigeria to serve people and families affected by hunger and severe food insecurity.
Howe said: “In Kano, where the impact of COVID-19 is anticipated to be significant given its regional centrality and commercial importance, the number of food-insecure groups increased by 158 per cent from 568,000 to 1.5 million.
“WFP is injecting a total of $3 million dollars into the local economies of the three hotspots.
“This will be complemented by the generous donation of 2,000 metric tonnes of food, valued at $1 million dollars, by the Federal Government through the National Strategic Grain Reserve.
“This is a demonstration of a strong partnership by the Federal Government through the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, to tackle the rising food insecurity in the country.”
On his part, Mohammed Yahya, the Country Representative, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said the organisation is championing the cause of the UN Basket Fund’s socio-economic response.
Yahya said the Fund was aimed at providing support to public institutions and vulnerable communities in responding to the secondary impacts of the pandemic as well as provide vital support to social recovery prioritising the urban poor.
“9,600 families from Kano State will benefit from cash transfer and 2,500 Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups will be funded for business continuity under cash transfer programme.
“This represents support in Kano State totaling N457,690,380 equivalent to $1.2 million dollars.
“The project will entail quick implementation as well as transparent and trackable interventions to address the development impact of COVID-19 in selected locations and safeguard national progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Also speaking, Usman Alhaji, the Secretary to the State Government, lauded the gesture, noting that it would go a long way to assist the persons affected by the pandemic.
Alhaji disclosed that the state government had empowered over one million youths and women and also initiated viable projects to fast track social and economic recovery of the state in the post-COVID-19 period.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Gov. Abdullahi Ganduje inaugurated the cash assistance and food items distribution exercise at Gwagwarwa area of Nasarawa Local Government Area of the state.
Ganduje commended WFP for its well designed formular in the house-to-house distribution exercise, saying that the initiative would ensure that the palliative reach the targeted persons.
The governor urged the people to pray for an end to the pandemic.
The event was attended by government functionaries, UN officials and representatives of development organisations.