The United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) has warned that the number of people facing acute food insecurity could nearly double this year to 265 million, due to the economic fallout of COVID-19.
WFP expects to need US$10-US$12billion to fund its assistance programmes this year, compared to a record US$8.3billion raised last year. Before the coronavirus pandemic, desert locusts in East Africa had destroyed crops and boosted the number of people reliant on food aid.
The World Bank has advised African governments to keep their trade borders open for business despite the coronavirus outbreak, so that food and other essentials are made readily available. Export restrictions adopted by African and other countries during the crisis affect not only the cost and availability of COVID-related medical supplies, but also necessities…mainly food.
Measures should be taken to maintain and not disrupt food supply chains to reduce the impact on livelihoods, especially on the poor and most vulnerable, the Bank notes.
According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), Africa’s GDP growth is expected to drop from 3.2% to 1.8% – which will likely increase the number of people without food.
Dr. Agnes Kalibata, AGRA President, has advised African governments that as health workers battle to slow down the spread of the disease, all measures must be taken to ensure that people have food now, in the recovery period, and beyond.
“If this is not done, COVID-19 will result in a food crisis that will affect poor people the most, in both rural and urban areas. It is obvious that we can protect the interests and well-being of the most vulnerable among us by ensuring farmers continue to do their work.”
Already, over 250 million people in Africa are without food. These vulnerable populations will suffer more from both the short- and long-term effects of the pandemic. Ghana’s Food and Agriculture Minister, Dr. Owusu Afriyie-Akoto, has averred that there is abundant food in the country as a result of the Planting for Food and Jobs programme.
Lifting the lockdown will enable more and more farmers to prepare for the in-coming season to produce more food.