Russian/Ukraine War: ActionAid Calls On FG To Roll Out Social Protection Measures To Mitigate Economic Crunch

By Bukar Bolori

ActionAid has lamented the rising cost of living in Nigeria and across the world as a result of the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia, therefore calling on Nigerian government to immediately roll out social protection measures to mitigate the effects on Nigerians

A statement on Friday said: “The cost of food, fuel, and fertiliser in some of the world’s poorest communities is soaring, with families spending double, triple, and nearly four times what they were paying before Russia invaded Ukraine, a new analysis by ActionAid finds.”

The statement added that while the average cost of wheat products like pasta has increased by more than 50% in local markets and communities in the 13 countries surveyed, families in Lebanon, which is heavily dependent on imports from Ukraine and Russia, are spending as much as 275% more than they were at the end of February.

The statement read: “In the Horn of Africa, where 20 million people are already facing severe hunger due to prolonged drought, communities in Somaliland are now spending more than double (163%) as much on a loaf of bread. Average prices for cooking oil have increased by over 60%, but in some areas of Somaliland, costs are up by as much as 260%.

“In Nigeria, findings show that the prices of wheat bread have increased up to 59 % in Sanrab semi-urban community in Kwara state. In Yobe state urban community of Nasarawa, the prices of wheat bread have increased up to 67 %. In Lagos, the price increase has been up to 127%. In rural areas of Kaduna, fertiliser prices have increased up to 111 %. At the same time, few areas of Lagos have witnessed up to a 111 % increase in sunflower cooking oil.”

The statement while noting that the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is releasing its latest global food price index, which found that world food commodity prices reached their highest levels last month, said ActionAid’s analysis finds that, at the local community level, food and fuel price hikes are far outstripping already record-breaking rises globally*, suggesting the Ukraine war has exacerbated ongoing food and fuel price challenges in communities most impacted by the climate crisis, humanitarian emergencies, and political and economic turmoil.

The survey of market traders and community members in 13 countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East found that the cost of essentials has increased with fertilizer up by an average of 83% (rising by up to 196% in the Elfeta area of Ethiopia), cooking oil up by an average of 64% (rising by up to 260% in the villages of Googeysa and Xidhinta in Somaliland); petrol up by an average of 63% (rising by up to 253% in the Myaing area of Magway District, Myanmar, cooking gas up by an average of 60% (rising by up to 175% in one area of Zimbabwe); pasta up by an average of 53% (rising by up to 275% in the Baalbek area of Bekaa district, Lebanon) and bread up by an average of 48% (rising by up to 163% in villages of Ceel-Giniseed and Teysa, Somaliland).

ActionAid International’s global climate justice lead, Teresa Anderson, said: “The conflict in Ukraine has created a perfect storm of skyrocketing prices for food, fuel and fertiliser, disproportionately affecting local communities who barely have any belt left to tighten.

“Our survey found that prices are now double, triple or almost four times as much as before the war started in some places.

“The world is now on track for a global food crisis that looks far more deadly, devastating, and prolonged than 2007-08. Governments and international institutions must take urgent action to avert catastrophic hunger on an unprecedented scale.”

According to the statement, just over two months from the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, families in existing hunger hotspots worldwide are already feeling the burden of skyrocketing prices.

Mothers are reported to having have to take their children out of school to afford to buy food and shared their heartache at only being able to provide one meal a day for their families. In Somaliland, one woman spoke of giving her children black tea to stave off hunger pangs.

Other people said they have become sick from drinking unclean water from ponds, and many families are incurring debt to cover essential expenses such as medical costs, seeds and fertiliser.

As well as the soaring cost of wheat products and cooking oil, the cost of fuel and fertilisers is also rising at an alarming rate.

ActionAid’s survey shows the cost of petrol and cooking gas has gone up by around 60% on average. However, one community in Myanmar reports that the price of petrol has soared by 253%, and families in Zimbabwe report petrol increases as high as 227% and cooking gas increases by 175%.

Chemical fertilisers, a key component of industrialised farming systems, require large amounts of fossil fuels for their production. The survey shows that the average fertiliser price has increased by more than 80%. However, prices have gone up by as much as 196% in one district of Ethiopia. With the planting season about to begin or already underway in many parts of the world, crop yields and farming incomes will be hit hard in 2022.

Country Director of ActionAid Nigeria, Ene Obi, in her reaction, said: “The Ukraine-Russia war has worsened the cost of living in many parts of the world, but the gaps in governance and lack of social safety-net have thrown more Nigerians into the abyss of poverty. The current hyper-inflation has made the meagre income of many Nigerians insignificant; for a government committed to lifting 100million Nigerian out of poverty, there is a need for reflection and immediate action.

Rising public debt, unemployment, inflation, and high cost of living require the immediate embracing of fiscal federalism in absolute terms. This will enable the country to break the vicious cycle of poverty. It will eliminate the wholesale dependence on oil, making Nigeria a monolithic economy. Adopting fiscal federalism principles will be a practical approach to solving the challenges governments at all levels face today, such as the generation and equitable distribution of income, efficient and effective allocation of resources, and economic stability. Revenue drive and allocation of resources can be done effectively by states and local governments with strong measures to curtail graft and corruption”.

ActionAid therefore called for the immediate roll-out of social protection measures, which target women and girls, including cash transfers and food support, to assist families most at risk.

The statement further read that: “Governments must rapidly train farmers on agroecological approaches to avert dramatic global yield losses from a worldwide lack of fertilisers later this year to avert dramatic global yield losses. Agroecology means adopting farming practices that work with nature, such as using local manure to build soil fertility and reduce reliance on chemical fertilisers.

“In the longer term, governments dependent on food imports must also invest in national and regional food reserves to act as buffers and reduce countries’ vulnerability to food shortages and price rises. The global fallout from the Ukraine crisis shows why a just transition to renewable energy and agroecological farming practices is more urgent than ever to address climate change and protect communities from shocks to world food and energy markets.”

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