The World Bank says the increase in food prices could push additional six million Nigerians into poverty — calling on the government’s attention for short-term policies to support welfare.

The Washington-based institution stated this in its latest report titled ‘COVID-19 in Nigeria: Frontline Data and Pathways for Policy’.

In June, the World Bank said an estimated 7 million Nigerians were pushed into poverty in 2020 due to rising prices alone — without considering the direct impacts of COVID-19.

Using the Nigeria COVID-19 National Longitudinal Phone Survey (NLPS), the report examines the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on human capital, livelihoods, and welfare of Nigerian households.

The NLPS represents a successful collaboration between Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the data production and methods team at the World Bank.

The World Bank lamented that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have brought Nigerian households’ food security under threat.

“The rise in prices witnessed between June 2020 and June 2021 alone could push another six million Nigerians into poverty, with urban areas being disproportionately affected. This underscores the need for short-term policies to support welfare,” the report reads.

 “The simple simulations suggest that the share of Nigerians living below the national poverty line could have increased from 40.1 percent to 42.8 percent due to the food price inflation witnessed between June 2020 and June 2021.

“This means about 5.6 million additional Nigerians would be living in poverty. While food price inflation would decrease purchasing power and raise poverty across Nigeria, it appears that urban areas could be disproportionately affected.

“In 2018/19, about 16 percent of poor Nigerians were urban dwellers. Yet among those who would be newly impoverished by the increase in food prices between June 2020 and June 2021, around 27 percent would be from urban areas.

“Nevertheless, poverty in Nigeria is set to remain a primarily rural phenomenon, with or without rising food prices.”

The report said that coverage of social protection programs remained low throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

It stated that between March 2020 and March 2021, just four percent of households received support — in the form of cash — from the federal, state, or local government.

This figure, the World Bank said, was significantly below what would be needed to counteract the widening and deepening of poverty brought about by the crisis.

The report further noted that while many schools have reopened across Nigeria, learning that was lost during the COVID-19 crisis still needs to be recouped — and some children have not returned to school.

Commenting on the report, Shubham Chaudhuri, World Bank country director for Nigeria, said: “The COVID-19 crisis has provided a wake-up call to address the long-standing structural challenges that could constrain the government’s ambition to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty.”

“There is no time like the present for the country to prepare for future climate and conflict shocks and seize the promise of its young population to lay strong foundations for inclusive growth.

The report suggested three immediate priorities that could provide the bedrock for recovery.

“First, rolling out vaccines quickly and equitably should reduce the direct health threat posed by the virus,” the report reads.

“Second, it will be essential to help children remediate the learning losses incurred during the pandemic – by getting them back to school or by finding low-tech remote solutions that work for the poor where this is not possible.

“Third, expanding social protection could provide short-term relief for the welfare losses Nigerian households are currently facing.”

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