Food Crisis: COVID-19 offers new risks for vulnerable countries

The COVID-19 pandemic could double the number of people suffering from acute hunger. The number could reach 265 million people by the end of 2020 unless quick action is taken. The projection is from the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), which released last Tuesday the Global Annual Report on Food Crises, produced with 15 other partners.

According to the document, it is vital that food assistance programs are maintained, including the WFP programs themselves, which reach up to 100 million vulnerable people worldwide. “We cannot just rely on the big global markets and commodities,” said José Graziano, former FAO director-general, during a webinar held this Friday by the Instituto Brasil África (IBRAF).

José Graziano

Also participating in the dialogue were Jean Pierre Senghor, executive secretary of Senegal’s National Food Security Council, Hippolyte Fofack, chief economist at the African Bank for Import and Export (Afreximbank) and Christopher Till, founder and director of the Apartheid Museum. The meeting was mediated by João Bosco Monte, president of IBRAF. They all defended local models of food production. “We need to take advantage of this moment, that we are all in our homes, to build a local circuit for the production and consumption of food”, provoked Graziano.

For Hippolyte Fofack, the main current challenge is to guarantee the delivery of food for everyone since the global market has felt the impact of the closing of borders: “talking about a crisis is not looking to the future. This is already happening now. The crisis has exposed the flaws in the current food import model ”.

“The situation has shown us that it is important to produce food locally and, above all, to encourage young people to learn about production processes,” argued Christopher Till.

Jean Pierre Senghor

For his part, Jean Pierre Senghor highlighted the importance of International Cooperation for this moment of crisis. “We will not be able to reach a stage of food production if we do not invest in research and learning”, he defended.

“Brazil, over the past 40 years, has left the position of an importer to be a food exporting country, and this can serve as a model for Africa. We cannot wait until tomorrow when people are hungry today”, concludes João Bosco Monte.

Strategic partnership

In January, Senegal’s National Food Security Council and IBRAF signed an agreement to develop projects and strengthen ties. The two organizations are committed to carrying out joint actions in the area of food security, such as training for young people and technology transfer actions. Among the actions, there are two editions Youth Technical Training Program (YTTP), an IBRAF program that trains young Africans in Brazil.

This was the second IBRAF webinar on the impacts of COVID-19 on the African continent. The first was focused on the importance of international economic cooperation in this pandemic moment

Challenging data

The Global Report on Food Crisis brought alarming data for the year 2019. “COVID-19 is potentially catastrophic for millions who are already bound by a thread. We must act collectively now to mitigate the impact of this global catastrophe, ”says Arif Husain, senior economist at WFP.

  • The majority of people who suffered from acute food insecurity in 2019 are in countries affected by conflict (77 million), climate change (34 million) and economic crises (24 million people).
  • Ten countries registered the worst food crises in 2019: Yemen, Democratic Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syria, Sudan, Nigeria and Haiti.
  • South Sudan had 61% of its population in a state of food crisis (or worse) in 2019. Six other countries also had at least 35% of their population in a state of food crisis: Sudan, Yemen, Central African Republic, Zimbabwe , Afghanistan, Syrian Arab Republic and Haiti.