• Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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55m people in West, Central Africa to face acute hunger – Report

55m people in West, Central Africa to face acute hunger – Report

The March 2024 Cadre Harmonisé food security analysis released by the Permanent Inter-State Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS), has projected that 55 million people in West and Central Africa would struggle to feed themselves from June to August 2024 because of lean season.

This figure represents a four-million increase in the number of people who are food-insecure compared to the November 2023 forecast and highlights, a fourfold increase over the last five years. The situation is particularly worrying in conflict-affected northern Mali, where an estimated 2,600 people are likely to experience catastrophic hunger (IPC/CH phase 5), the report states.

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The report released at the weekend said malnutrition in West and Central Africa was alarmingly high, with 16.7 million children under five acutely malnourished and more than two out of 3 households unable to afford healthy diets. In addition, 8 out of 10 children aged 6-23 months do not consume the minimum number of foods required for optimal growth and development.

The latest data also revealed a significant shift in the factors driving food insecurity in the region, beyond recurring conflicts.

The report indicated that West and Central Africa remain heavily dependent on imports to meet the population’s food needs. Still, import bills continue to rise due to currency depreciation and high inflation, even as countries struggle with major fiscal constraints and macroeconomic challenges.

“Economic challenges such as currency devaluations, soaring inflation, stagnating production, and trade barriers have worsened the food crisis, affecting ordinary people across the region with Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Mali being among the worst affected”.

“Prices of major staple grains continue to rise across the region from 10 percent to more than 100 percent compared to the five-year average, driven by currency inflation, fuel and transport costs, ECOWAS sanctions, and restrictions on agropastoral product flows. Currency inflation is a major driver of price volatility in Ghana (23%), Nigeria (30%), Sierra Leone (54%), Liberia (10%), and The Gambia (16%).”

Cereal production for the 2023-2024 agricultural season shows a deficit of 12 million tons, while the per capita availability of cereals is down by two percent compared to the last agricultural season.

Margot Vandervelden, WFP’s acting regional director for Western Africa, said the time to act was now.

“We need all partners to step up, engage, adopt and implement innovative programmes to prevent the situation from getting out of control, while ensuring no one is left behind. We need to invest more in resilience-building and longer-term solutions for the future of West Africa,” she added.

High food prices, limited healthcare access, and inadequate diets primarily drive acute malnutrition in children under 5, adolescents, and pregnant women. In parts of northern Nigeria, the prevalence of acute malnutrition in women aged 15-49 years is as high as 31 percent.

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“For children in the region to reach their full potential, we need to ensure that each girl and boy receives good nutrition and care, lives in a healthy and safe environment, and is given the right learning opportunities,” said Fagninou Gilles, UNICEF regional director.

“Good nutrition in early life and childhood is the promise for a productive and educated workforce for tomorrow’s society. To make a lasting difference in children’s lives, we need to consider the situation of the child as a whole and strengthen education, health, water and sanitation, food, and social protection systems,” Fagninou.