Food shortages hit West and Central Africa

Food shortages hit West and Central Africa

Almost 55 million people face increased food and nutritional shortages in West and Central Africa during the region's traditional three months of scarcity each year, from June to August. as reported on Friday he World Food Program (WFP) of the UN.

This represents an increase of four million in the number of people currently facing food insecurity in that region.

Mali faces the worst situation: some 2,600 people are presumed to be suffering from catastrophic hunger – IPC Food Classification Index, Phase 5.*

The time to act is now. We need all partners to step up, commit, adopt and implement innovative programs to prevent the situation from spiraling out of control and ensure that no one is left behind,” said Margot Vandervelden, Acting Regional Director from the WFP for West Africa.

Economic challenges and imports

The most recent data show that economic turbulence, such as the stagnation of productioncurrency devaluation, rising inflation and trade barriers have aggravated the food crisis in Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Mali.

These economic challenges, as well as fuel and transportation costs, sanctions from the regional body Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and restrictions on the flows of agropastoral products, have contributed to a sharp increase in basic cereal prices throughout the region, an increase of more than 100% in the last five years.

To date, cereal production for the 2023-2024 agricultural season has recorded a deficit of 12 million tonnes, while cereal availability per person has decreased by 2% compared to the last agricultural season in the region.

Currently, West and Central Africa depends on imports to meet the food needs of the population, but economic difficulties have increased the cost of imports.

WFP's Vandervelden said these problems require Greater investment in “building resilience and long-term solutions for the future of West Africa.

Outrageous Highs

Malnutrition in West and Central Africa has reached alarming levels: 16.7 million children under five years of age suffer from acute malnutrition.

More than two-thirds of households have difficulty affording a healthy diet and eight out of 10 children, between six and 23 months, lack the consumption of foods essential for their optimal growth and development.

“For the region's children to reach their full potential, We have to guarantee that each boy and girl receives good nutrition and carelive in a healthy and safe environment and have appropriate learning opportunities,” said Gilles Fagninou, regional director from UNICEF.

In some areas of northern Nigeria, there are also many cases of acute malnutrition in about 31% of women aged 15 to 49 years.

Fagninou explained that strengthening “education, health, water and sanitation, food and social protection systems” can produce lasting differences in the lives of children.

Sustainable solutions

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Program (WFP) call on national governments, international organizations, civil society and the private sector to establish sustainable solutions that strengthen and support food security and increase agricultural productivity.

These solutions should also alleviate the adverse effects of economic volatility, they noted.

It is also expected that Governments and the private sector join forces to guarantee the human right to food for all.

UNICEF and WFP plan to extend national social protection programs to Chad and Burkina Faso, as millions of people in Senegal, Mali, Mauritania and Niger have benefited from these programs.

In addition, FAO, the Agricultural Development Fund (IFAD) and WFP have collaborated across the Sahel to expand “productivity and access to nutritious food through resilience-building programmes.”

Dr. Robert Guei, FAO Subregional Coordinator for West Africa and the Sahel, pointed out that when responding to these cases of food and nutritional insecurity it is essential to promote and support policies that encourage the “diversification of plant, animal and aquatic and local food processing.

In his opinion, this is “crucial not only to guarantee healthy and affordable diets throughout the year, but also and above all to protect biodiversity, with the potential to mitigate the effects of climate change, and especially to counteract high food prices and protect the livelihoods of the affected population.

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