The United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund has given $15m to ensure that the projected famine in the north-east states of Nigeria Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe is averted.

The annual food security assessment projection in the region shows that 5.1m people would be at risk of starving between June and August next year when farmers wait for their harvest to yield.

The UN’s human rights coordinator for Nigeria, Edward Kallon, said the money would be used to ensure the projected famine is averted.

“The humanitarian community is extremely worried by the rising food insecurity in north-east Nigeria. We are now recording levels of food insecurity similar to 2016-2017, at the peak of the humanitarian crisis, when the risk of famine was looming over the north-east,” Kallon said in a statement after the fund was announced.

“We are not at famine levels of food insecurity in Nigeria, but we must spare no effort to scale up our actions and ensure that the situation does not deteriorate.”

The food projection assessment had estimated in June that more than 4.3m persons in the region could need food.

This, according to Kallon, makes the announcement of the fund timely.

“In the past, we have been able to avert food insecurity deteriorating into famine by working together, pooling our resources, and scaling up our efforts.

“With adequate resources and improved access, we can save lives and curb the trend of rapidly deteriorating food insecurity.

“This funding from the Central Emergency Response Fund comes right on time to start scaling up these efforts. I appeal to member states to provide the resources we urgently need.”

The Nigerian Bureau of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is, however, sceptical of member states releasing their proposed contribution to the relief fund in time.

“The joint humanitarian response proposed by the United Nations and its humanitarian partners is critically underfunded. Less than two months before the end of the year, aid actors have received less than half the funds required to assist the 7.8 million people targeted, which means that critical activities to save the lives of people affected by the crisis remain underfunded,” it said.