The World Food Programme (WFP) says it urgently needs 172 million dollars for its operations in north-east Nigeria to alleviate the impact of lean season in the area.
The UN food agency said the lean season was driving up food prices and depleting the meagre resources of millions of people affected by conflict and intensifying hunger.
The agency said the hardest-hit states were Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, when an estimated 5.2 million people were affected and urgently needed food assistance.
WFP said there is need to avert famine from affecting more than one-third of the population, adding tens of thousands were already having difficulties to feed themselves.
“A funding shortfall has forced WFP to suspend plans to ramp up assistance during the June-August lean season.
“They now plan to reach only 1.36 million people monthly during this crucial period, down from previous target of 1.8 million.
“Even those receiving food, nutrition and cash assistance are getting less of it. WFP is helping only the very hungriest and most vulnerable.
“This is a brutal form of triage but the agency says that given adequate resources, it could do much more,” the UN food agency said.
WFP also issued an urgent call for one billion dollars to help 20 million people needing food assistance in northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.
“These funds, which would cover the next six months, must come now, as delays would result in needless suffering,” it said.
WFP said Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen were entering the so-called hunger season, the annual period when food from the last harvest runs out and the death rate among children spikes.
WFP also stressed that any blocking of aid by any group translated into the suffering and death of the innocent, adding that using food as a weapon of war was unacceptable.