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Hunger, rising food costs and kidnappings in Nigeria

Gunmen in Nigeria have kidnapped 287 more children. It’s become a lucrative business as 6.6 million people face hunger.

Written by Lucie N'guessan, Regional Communications Officer, West Africa | 14 Mar 2024

A woman in a grey headscarf passes a group of men at a roadside stall stacked high with potatoes for sale.

Potatoes on sale in a street market in Nigeria. Tearfund works in some places in Nigeria by providing training to small-scale farmers to help improve production so that they can afford to feed their families. Around 6.6 million people in Nigeria are facing food insecurity. Credit: Steve Goddard/Tearfund

Last week, gunmen in Nigeria kidnapped 287 primary school students aged between eight and 15 years old. It’s the latest in a series of raids targeting school children which has seen around 1,500 students kidnapped in the country's troubled northern region since 2014.

Why are there so many kidnappings in Nigeria right now?

With the country facing rising food costs and a struggling economy, the abductions are aimed at obtaining ransom. Kidnappings have become a lucrative business for bandit groups and these incidents are increasing. The BBC reports that the day before the children were taken from school, women and children from a displaced persons camp in another part of the country were rounded up and seized by armed men on motorbikes while out searching for firewood.

Over recent years, more than 600,000 people have been displaced from their homes in northwest Nigeria as a result of extreme violence, deteriorating economic conditions, and climate change. The Lake Chad basin is shrinking and the Sahara desert is spreading southward, adding to a shortage of farming land and access to water for humans, livestock and crops. Hunger, malnutrition and recurrent outbreaks of preventable diseases have reached critical levels.

‘As of January this year, 8.3 million people in Nigeria are in need of some form of humanitarian aid. It’s projected that 6.6 million people will experience acute food insecurity this year and already, 2.9 million have become internally displaced persons (IDPs)*.’

Impact of the kidnappings on Tearfund’s work

All of this is also having an impact on areas where Tearfund has been working.

Some of those communities where the kidnappings have happened are close to where we work – particularly in Kaduna State. This has made it very difficult for our local Tearfund and partner staff to access these communities, even long after a kidnapping has taken place.

Many of the people who we work with are deeply impacted by fear because of the situation, which makes it extremely difficult for them to focus on work and on trying to develop new solutions to poverty. There is often a lot of stress and anxiety in the communities where we work because of the kidnappings that have happened nearby.

In some cases, security issues have become heightened to the extent that our local staff can no longer travel through the simplest and easiest route because of the ongoing risks of kidnapping.

*People who have been forced to flee their homes and find safety in other places within the country are often referred to as internally displaced persons (IDPs). Refugees are those who seek safety across country borders.

Pray for Nigeria

    • Pray for children’s protection and for the release of those who have already been kidnapped. 
    • Pray for the success of the efforts to address the root causes of kidnapping such as poverty and unemployment.
    • Pray that the most urgent needs of affected people – including protection, food, water, sanitation and hygiene(WASH), health services, education and shelter – are met.

Written by

Written by  Lucie N'guessan, Regional Communications Officer, West Africa

Regional Communications Officer, West Africa

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