By Rabiu Sani
ECOWAS Commission has donated about 4,000 tonnes of food items to the Federal Government for distribution to vulnerable households, to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sangare Sekou, the ECOWAS Commissioner of Agriculture, Water Resources and Environment, disclosed this at the presentation of the items to the Federal Government on Saturday in Kano.
Sekou said that the gesture was to demonstrate the region’s solidarity with the Government and People of Nigeria.
He said: “This regional solidarity will be demonstrated through food donations of a total quantity of 3,999 tonnes of cereals comprising of millet and sorghum.
“The first donation consists of 1,196 tonnes of cereals financed by the ECOWAS Commission’s Humanitarian Emergency Fund for Disaster and Emergency Relief to Member States affected by a humanitarian crisis.
“While the second donation of 2,803 tonnes is funded by the resources of the Regional Food Security Storage Support Project, which the European Union is financing for a total amount of €56 million.
“The grains will be taken from the stocks in the ECOWAS Regional Food Security Reserve, partly warehoused with the Federal Strategic Reserve Department (FSRD) and distributed free of charge to the households mostly affected by the humanitarian situation in the country.”
The Commissioner said the donations would complement the multidimensional support ECOWAS was providing to Nigeria since the advent of COVID -19 in the country on Feb. 27.
Sekou noted that the COVID -19 pandemic disrupted production, warehousing, marketing, processing, and distribution systems of agriculture and food productions, especially in the Northeastern part of the Country.
“The Harmonised Framework for Identifying Risk Areas and Vulnerability estimates that over 7,087,102 people are currently in difficult food situations in the country, including Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and children affected by malnutrition.
“The ECOWAS Commission has, therefore, decided to provide the support of the region through its Humanitarian Emergency Fund and the financial support of the European Union within the framework of the Regional Food Security Storage Support Project,” he said.
He added that food donations would assist vulnerable households to cope with the multiple crises while safeguarding their livelihoods.
According to him, ECOWAS Humanitarian Policy aims to prevent, mitigate, and provide durable solutions to the complex emergencies including natural and man-made disasters in the region.
It is also designed to complement the ECOWAS Disaster Risk Reduction Policy, focusing on disaster risk mitigation through viable interventions targeted at reducing risks as an obstacle to development.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports also that the Regional Food Security Reserve Established on Feb. 28, 2013 in Yamoussoukro, Côte d’Ivoire, by the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, aims to complement the efforts of Member States to provide diversified rapid food and nutritional assistance.
In a remark, Hajiya Sadiya Umar-Farouq, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, said the Federal Government had distributed 70,000 tonnes of food items to deserving households in the country.
Umar-Farouq said the food items were supplied by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development under the National Strategic Food Reserve.
She said the government also implemented Conditional Cash transfer and loans to vulnerable families and market women to mitigate their sufferings occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The minister added that about 15 million Nigerians were captured under the Social Register, to mobilize participation in the National Social Investment Programme.
While commending ECOWAS for the gesture, Umar-farouq said the food items would be distributed to vulnerable families, IDPs and victims of disasters in the country.
Also speaking, Amb. Zubairu Dada, the Minister of State, Foreign Affairs, reiterated the Federal Government commitment to promote the goals of the ECOWAS, and strengthen peace to achieve sustainable development in the region.
Dada noted that President Muhammadu Buhari had initiated viable project to fast track sustainable environment, water and agricultural development as well as enhance regional integration.
While lauding ECOWAS for the distribution of livestock to households in Kebbi State, Dada pledged continued support to the commission.
NAN reports that the exercise was attended by Alhaji Baba Shehuri, Minister of State Agriculture, Fatima Jagne, ECOWAS Commissioner of Social Affairs and Gender as well as representatives of the Kano State Government.