The Covid-19 Pandemic is a major global concern not only for its current impacts on public health, but also for its impact on the social and economic development of many countries. West Africa is one of the regions that could be most affected, according to the FAO resilience team coordinator for the West African and Sahel regions, Coumba D. Sow.
“This is a complex region, hit by chronic hunger, insecurity, climate change, the threats of a Desert Locust outbreak, and now the pandemic. Year after year, five out of the ten countries at the bottom of the UN Development Index are in West Africa,” she affirms.
Sow explains that, currently, around 11 million people in the region need food assistance, the majority due to the already existing conflicts. This number could grow to almost 17 million by August if there are no quick answers to the crisis.
The return to a reality of global food insecurity, especially in West Africa, was already being pointed out in the FAO “State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World” report of 2019 and the 2020 Global Report on Food Crisis. The pandemic may accelerate these predictions.
“The key issue to highlight is that the pandemic is expanding during crucial months for this region – when people need to plant, move with their animals. Farmers need to be able to sell their current produces but also access fields and markets to prepare for the main 2020/2021 agricultural season,” contextualizes Coumba.
The advance of hunger
For the former Director General of FAO, José Graziano da Silva, the current studies show that the Covid-19 pandemic can increase considerably, on global levels, the number of people on the hunger map. “It is a reality that we saw 20 years ago,” he says.
Last Friday (April 24) Graziano participated in the webinar “Food Crisis: Consequence of the Coronavirus Pandemic?” promoted by the Brazil Africa Institute. “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. This is the time to think about solutions that will last,” he said.
According to Coumba D. Sow, since the beginning of the pandemic, FAO has been working with gathering information and carrying out analyzes that serve as guidelines for actions in the area of food security. Some countries are already operate based on the plans.
In Burkina Faso an immediate assistance program is being launched for vulnerable people in urban areas to have access to healthy food. In Senegal, FAO has supported government actions both in raising the population’s awareness and in supporting the affected small producers.
“In the short-term, the priorities are: support vulnerable households affected by COVID-19 to access adequate food; ensure pastoralists have feed and water during the current dry season, and farmers have seeds to start planting; ensure social protection during the lean season; and maintain the markets and value chains functional so that people can buy the food they need, and at adequate prices,” she finishes.