The World Health Organization (WHO) last month estimated that 73 million people in Africa are already acutely food insecure and with the pandemic prolonged, the situation is dreadful.
With covid-19 exacerbating food shortages, an additional 147 million people may slide into extreme poverty with more than half of these coming from Sub-Saharan Africa.
The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) notes that the world stares at a possible global GDP loss of 5 per cent this year which could worsen the fate of not only food producers but also those most in need.
To address this, the African Development Bank (AfDB) has unveiled a strategic roadmap of projects and programmes to assist African countries in tackling the nutrition and food security aspects occasioned by the pandemic crisis through a raft of immediate and longer-term measures.
The Feed Africa Response to COVID-19 (FAREC) paves the way for a comprehensive intervention to build resilience, sustainability and regional self-sufficiency in Africa’s food systems and help farmers cope with coronavirus-related disruptions to the agricultural value chain.
“The Bank’s response to support the agriculture sector lays out specific measures aimed at addressing challenges faced by African countries across all aspects of the agriculture sector. Africa cannot afford a food crisis in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr Jennifer Blanke, the Bank’s Vice President for Agriculture, Human and Social Development.
A report released alongside the roadmap recommends immediate, short- and medium-term solutions for the agriculture sector including; support of food delivery for the most vulnerable; stabilization of food prices; optimization of food processing; extension support services, and provision of key agricultural inputs through smart subsidies.
According to the report, AfDB will prioritize policy support to enhance the movement of inputs and food, to establish food security task forces in countries, and to strengthen the capacity of regional organisations to monitor multi-country initiatives.
The pandemic has worsened volatility in the price of food staples and complicated food system actors’ investment decision-making. The confluence of impacts risks deepening food insecurity and malnutrition. According to the World Food Programme, over 40 million West Africans face food shortages in the coming months.
FAREC forms one part of the Bank’s COVID-19 Response Facility (CRF) of up to US$10 billion. The CRF is the Bank’s primary channel to deploy financial and technical measures to cushion African economies and livelihoods against the health, social and economic impacts of the pandemic.
“Ensuring food security for Africans in all situations is at the core of the Bank’s Feed Africa Strategy. Our institution will coordinate its efforts with different stakeholders across the continent to effectively answer the needs of regional member countries,” said Dr Martin Fregene, Director of the Bank’s Agriculture and Agro-industry Department.
International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) President Gilbert Houngbo says that in most of Africa, people are more likely to die from starvation caused by the pandemic rather than from the disease itself.
With climate and environmental shocks continually threatening food supplies and locusts still ravaging crops in East Africa, the situation could get worse unless adequate and timely attention is given to it.
Most of the continent is emerging from its worst drought in years and the lean season is coming to West and Central Africa leaving 21 million people facing critical food shortages in next month through August.