Food Insecurity and Mental Health

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As the times get tougher, due to economic hardship – especially in Nigeria where the removal of fuel subsidy has led to the hike in the price of fuel and many other commodities -one area we have to be concerned about is the mental wellbeing of the citizens. It is no longer news that families are seriously grappling with survival strategies, to the extent that people are now selling their children just to be able to put food on the table. Marriages are crumbling, while many women have embraced coded prostitution (hookup) in order to make ends meet.

These days, majority of Nigerians are not even thinking about acquiring assets; they are more concerned about subsistence – food to eat and a good sleep. Unfortunately, these ingredients that enhance sound mental health have become difficult to come by in the country.

A Nigerian life that is filled with uncertainty, loss of jobs, inability to meet up with bills and other responsibilities will always breed anxiety, insomnia and depression. The ultimate end could be substance abuse or suicidal thoughts.

A combination of insomnia and hunger can lead to mental breakdown. Many Nigerians now walk on the road, oblivious of happenings around them because their minds are busy calculating how to get money or their next meal. Many have been knocked down by oncoming vehicles because they could not hear the sound of vehicular horns.

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Food commodities like beans and garri, which, before now, were considered to be the last resort of the poor man are now out of his reach. On the other hand, the rich politician and his family eat the best foods, drink the best wines and sleep on the best beds that guarantee them sweet dreams. Thus, you can never hear them complain about nightmares.

This is unlike the masses that eat anything that comes their way, drink locally made gin, popularly known as ogogoro and sleep on mats or tattered mattresses. It is not surprising that they are always having nightmares and dream of demons or masquerades chasing them. These are the same people who go to their religious houses and are told that their problems are spiritual. Their vulnerability and gullibility are legendary, as they become easy tools in the hands of fake clerics, who make undue financial demands from them, even in their already impoverished state. King Solomon understood these things when he said, “The rich man’s wealth is his strong city: The destruction of the poor is their poverty.” (Proverbs 10:15).

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According to the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2022, Nigeria ranked 103rd out of 121 countries. This ranking shows that with a 27.3 percent score, the country has a level of hunger that is serious. More so, in the 11th edition of the Global Food Security Index (GFSI), published in 2022, Nigeria ranked 107th out of 113 countries. Statistically, this means that 12.9 percent of the global population in extreme poverty was found in Nigeria in 2022. In addition, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has predicted that 25.3 million people in Nigeria will face acute food insecurity between June and August 2023, compared with the 19.45 million projected for 2022.

These figures are indicative of a plethora of dysfunctionalities in the Nigerian system, where the avarice of a political cabal is taking a negative toll on the majority of the citizens. A recent report by the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) indicated that between 2009 and 2020, the country had lost a whooping sum of $46b to crude oil thieves. This sum means that 619 million barrels of crude had been stolen from Nigeria. Definitely, this atrocious crime against the nation cannot be perpetrated by the poor masses.

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With this humongous looting taking place, it should not be a surprise that some Nigerians find it difficult to eat one square meal. A man who struggles to find food cannot be in the best frame of mind and that is why most politicians weaponise hunger in order to use it as a cheap vote-buying strategy. In the last general elections, people’s votes were bought for as low as a thousand naira.

So, whenever you see people fill a stadium during a political campaign, just know that some pittances have been offered to them. These same people, after collecting these pittances, go on to suffer for years, while complaining of declining infrastructural and economic developments in the country.

There is no mentally sound person that would allow his or her vote to be bought. However, the sad reality is that Nigerian politicians are comfortable with it because without it, their aspirations to positions of power may never come to fruition.

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