The World Food Programme (WFP) on Tuesday said over 40 million people across West Africa will face desperate food shortages in coming months.
According to a report on the United Nations (UN) website, the food shortages are coming with COVID-19 restrictions as a new factor adding to people’s vulnerability.
The WFP spokesperson, Elisabeth Byers, in the report, said the new coronavirus risked exposing populations that had fled armed conflict and endured climate change emergencies.
The report estimated that 12 million children under five years old could be acutely malnourished in the lean season – from June to August – unlike 8.2 million in the same period last year.
It also highlighted that the alert follows a similar warning from the UN agency about a potentially massive spike in global food insecurity in East Africa, as a direct result of the pandemic.
For WFP, the priority continues to be the most vulnerable individuals.
“During the lean season in June and August, more than 21 million people across West Africa “will struggle to feed themselves,” she explained, adding Gambia and Benin to the list of countries in need.
“An additional 20 million people could struggle to feed themselves due to the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 in the next six months, doubling the number of food-insecure to 43 million in this region,” Ms Byers said highlighted in the report.
“Over 21 million people across West Africa will struggle to feed themselves between June and August without sustained assistance. @WFP estimates an additional 20 million people could struggle to feed themselves due to the socioeconomic impact of #COVID-19 in the next 6 months." pic.twitter.com/y7mu1y2f4l
— UN Geneva (@UNGeneva) May 5, 2020
The greatest worry is for people living in West Africa who feed on daily proceeds.
This category of people, “the urban poor – who live hand-to-mouth – (who) are most at risk,” Ms Byers said.
She highlighted how COVID-19 travel restrictions have compromised the transport of supplies and the functioning of open-air markets that serve most people, resulting in price increases in some countries.
“Movement restrictions could also affect farmers as the planting season approaches, WFP said in a statement, warning that “an inadequate response” to current needs “would put the future well-being of millions of people in the region at stake, particularly women and young children.”
While addressing the hand to mouth feeding, she said it could also lead to civil unrest in parts of a region already challenged by insecurity and violent extremism.
The agency said it was seeking to overcome (these) challenges, in partnership with the authorities.