31 million people are at risk of starving to death in the coming months in West and Central Africa. This is due to soaring food prices in the markets. On top of that, there are the ongoing conflicts and the fallout from the great pandemic of COVID-19.
Rising prices increase the grip of hunger on households in Africa
According to the World Food Program (WFP) statement, the figure is more than 30% higher than last year. The highest level in most of the last decade, according to the Permanent Inter-State Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS), a regional organization.
Misery is on the rise
The WFP stressed that immediate action is needed now to avoid a catastrophe. The warning comes as the hunger season approaches, from June to August, when food is scarce before the next harvest.
According to Chris Nikoi, WFP’s regional director for West Africa, conflict is increasing hunger and poverty in West Africa. The relentless rise in prices acts as a misery multiplier, plunging millions of people into hunger and despair.
« Even when food is available, families simply cannot afford it – and soaring prices are putting a basic meal out of reach for millions of poor families who were already struggling to get by. »
WFP said that measures taken to curb the spread of COVID-19 have contributed to the dramatic rise in food prices in the region.
Rations at risk
Some staple foods have increased by nearly 40 percent compared to the average of the past five years. In some areas, prices have jumped by more than 200 percent, while incomes have fallen due to the decline in sectors such as trade, tourism and remittances.
Food aid may be the only source of hope for millions of families. The needs are immense, and if we can’t raise the necessary funds, we simply won’t be able to keep up, » Nikoi said.
Fleeing the violence
Meanwhile, escalating violence in parts of West Africa is forcing people to flee their homes and abandon their fields, a source of income. Countries affected include Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and the Central African Republic, as well as parts of northern Nigeria and northwestern and southwestern parts of Cameroon.
As people flee the violence, they are particularly vulnerable to acute food insecurity. WFP said that across West Africa, nearly 10 million children under the age of five are acutely malnourished, half of them in the Sahel alone, and that the number could increase significantly.
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