A report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) has said Nigeria and 24 other countries will likely face ”devastating levels of hunger and food shortages” triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic soon.
The report titled, FAO-WFP early warning analysis of acute food insecurity hotspots, was published early Friday by the WFP on its webpage.
“People in some 25 countries are set to face devastating levels of hunger in coming months due to the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic,” the report stated.
The 25-page report highlights that while the greatest concentration of need is in Africa, countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, and in the Middle East and Asia – including middle-income countries – are also being ravaged by crippling levels of food insecurity.
Apart from Nigeria, some of the West African countries expected to experience similar fate include Liberia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Niger, Burkina Faso.
Other nations listed are Cameroon, Mali, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen, Syria, Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Lebanon, Angola, Palestine, Jordan, Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt.
“Three months ago at the UN Security Council, I told world leaders that we ran the risk of a famine of biblical proportions,” David Beasley, WFP executive director was quoted to have said, “Today, our latest data tell us that, since then, millions of the world’s very poorest families have been forced even closer to the abyss.”
The official said livelihoods are being destroyed at an unprecedented rate.
“Make no mistake – if we do not act now to end this pandemic of human suffering, many people will die,” he said.
The report identifies five major pathways through which the impact of the pandemic is pushing vulnerable people further into food insecurity.
These include ‘impacts on food access through reduced household purchasing power; impacts on availability of food; agricultural production and food supply chains, impacts on government capacities to protect vulnerable populations; impacts on political stability, and impacts on conflict dynamics.”
The report says the number of people suffering hunger in these countries could increase from an estimated 149 million pre-COVID-19 to 270 million before the end of the year if life-saving assistance is not provided urgently.
It says recent estimates also suggest that up to 6,000 children could die every day from preventable causes over the next six months as a result of pandemic-related disruptions to essential health and nutrition services.
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Before now, the fourth edition of the Global Report on Food Crisis had said over 135 million people in 55 countries and territories were faced with acute food insecurity in 2019, which requires urgent action.
The report said the situation could worsen this year due to the impact of COVID-19, but the precise magnitude of the deterioration is not yet known.
Of the 135 million in 2019, Africa accounted for 73 million, half of whom are in 36 of Africa’s 55 countries. Northern Nigeria alone accounts for 5 million, the report said.
War-torn Yemen, DR Congo and Afghanistan topped the report’s list, each respectively having 15.9, 15.6 and 11.3 million people faced with food crises “or worse”.
To prevent the worst, the WFP said it is scaling up to provide food assistance to an unprecedented 138 million people ”who face desperate levels of hunger as the pandemic tightens its grip on some of the most fragile countries on earth”.
The cost of WFP’s response to this burgeoning food insecurity is estimated at $4.9 billion, with an additional $500 million being earmarked to prevent the outbreak of famine in countries most at risk, the report notes.
It says this represents more than half of the updated COVID-19 global humanitarian response plan, while the largest appeal in the UN’s history was launched today for more than $ 10 billion.
“The plan covers wide-ranging humanitarian needs in more than 60 countries, many of them already reeling from the impact of conflict, climate change and economic crisis.”
In the bid to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on global food systems, the FAO recently launched a COVID-19 response and recovery programme, while it is also calling for an initial investment fund of $1.2 billion to scale up the fight of preventing a global food emergency crisis during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
To prevent multiple food crises resulting from the secondary impacts of the pandemic, and to safeguard people already suffering from acute food insecurity, the FAO–WFP report recommends that countries should preserve and scale-up critical humanitarian food, nutrition and livelihood assistance.
”Countries should adapt assistance activities to the COVID-19 operational context, and promote flexible financing; minimize interruptions to critical food supply chains and ensure the functioning and resilience of agri-food systems; support governments to reinforce and scale-up social-protection systems, and strengthen basic service delivery,” it said.
More so, the report recommends that excluded groups be reached and nations should take into consideration the impact of COVID-19 on women and girls.
”Promote innovative data collection, monitor and assess evidence-based programming; adapt interventions to ensure inclusion and to minimise social tensions; as well step up coordination and partnerships across boards,” it added.