Two agencies of the United Nations (UN) have called on regional leaders and partners to scale up support to stem the spread of hunger in west and central Africa.
The two UN agencies – Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) – made the call after the number of acutely food insecure people in the regions rose to a record high of 28 million people.
They noted that the current levels of acute malnutrition exceeds the 15 percent emergency threshold in parts of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger.
The World Bank had reported that approximately 27 million west Africans needed immediate food assistance due to a combination of drought, poverty, high cereal prices, environmental degradation, displacement, poor trade integration, and conflict in 2021.
Data from the global bank also indicated that multiple shocks across west Africa, largely induced by agricultural risks, had made food scarcer and more expensive and increased malnutrition.
Also, data from the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies shows that 23.6 million people are projected to face crisis-level food insecurity in west Africa, signaling a 40 percent increase in 2021.
Furthermore, figures from the French Development Agency (AFD) show that food insecurity remains a major structural problem in the west Africa region, with 40 million people undernourished and vulnerable to chronic malnutrition.
‘Food security indicators are all pointing in the wrong direction in this region, and we are seeing hunger at its highest level in almost eight years’, WFP’s Regional Director for Western Africa, Chris Nikoi, said in a statement.
‘We are facing a troubling funding outlook with needs outpacing available funding. This is the time to ramp up our assistance, not cut rations.
‘Donors need to step up before the lean season sets in pushing needs up. We must act now to stop a preventable rise in malnutrition rates.
‘And at the same time, we must help build the resilience of communities through a proactively planned, government-led, community-owned response to food insecurity and malnutrition’.
The UN agencies noted that the economic impact of the pandemic is still unfolding in the regions, with a constrained fiscal space, increased public debt, rampant inflation and rising food prices.
According to them, without immediate, efficient, and coordinated action, the number of people who will be vulnerable to hunger will reach 35.7 million in the Sahel and west Africa and 2.3 people in the Central African Republic through June to August 2022.
‘Given the situation, we call for scaling up investments to ensure off season production and safeguard pastoralists’ livelihoods in view of the upcoming lean season’, FAO Sub-regional Coordinator for West Africa, Gouantoueu Robert Guei, said.
‘The reduced availability of pasture and the limited mobility due to insecurity will pose tremendous challenges to pastoralists in the next few months.
‘At the same time, as of early 2022, we call for adequate investments in the preparation for the next agricultural season. Investing in people’s livelihoods is key to prevent food insecurity from worsening’.
Photo source: Vannette Tolbert/WFP