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Hunger in Africa: affects 55 million people in central and western regions, a four-fold increase compared to the last five years

ROMA – According to the latest March 2024 food security forecast released by the Harmonized Framework – a tool that serves to produce rigorous and transparent analyzes on the state of world hunger – published by the Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS), nearly 55 million people in Central and West Africa will struggle to feed themselves during the lean season between June and August.

Comparison with past years. This figure – 55 million – represents a four million increase in the number of people suffering from food insecurity compared to forecasts made in November 2023 and highlights a four-fold growth in hunger levels compared to the last five years. The situation is particularly worrying in northern Mali, a country hit by permanent conflict and continuous economic turbulence. In Mali around 2,600 people are on the brink of famine, meaning they risk experiencing a level of hunger that experts define as “catastrophic”.

What causes hunger. The latest data also reveals a significant shift in the factors driving food insecurity across the West and Central Africa macro region, beyond recurring conflicts. Economic challenges such as currency devaluation, rising inflation, stagnating production and trade barriers have worsened the food crisis and affected ordinary people in all countries, with Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Mali among the most vulnerable . The prices of the main cereals have increased throughout the area from 10 to over 100 percent compared to the average of the last five years, driven by currency inflation, fuel and transport costs, ECOWAS sanctions – the Community economy of West African states at the end of February loosened some restrictions on Mali, which among other things at the end of January announced its withdrawal from ECOWAS together with Niger and Burkina Faso – and from restrictions on the flows of agro-produce -pastoral. Inflation is one of the main drivers of price volatility, especially in Ghana, where it impacts 23 percent, in Nigeria, where it impacts 30 percent, in Sierra Leone 54 percent, in Liberia 10 percent. one hundred and in Gambia for 16 percent. The most important issue concerns imports. All the countries of Central and West Africa are heavily dependent on products purchased abroad to satisfy the needs of the population, but import prices continue to increase for the reasons explained above, thus limiting the purchasing power of governments.

Cereals. Cereal production is also decreasing, decreasing by 12 million tonnes for the 2023-2024 agricultural season. In concrete terms it means that the per capita availability of cereals is 2 percent lower than in the last agricultural season. Malnutrition in Central and West Africa has now reached alarming levels: 16.7 million children under five are severely undernourished and more than 2 out of 3 families cannot afford a complete and healthy diet. Furthermore, 8 out of 10 children aged between 6 and 23 months do not consume the minimum number of foods necessary for optimal growth and development. Malnutrition also affects women, especially if they are pregnant. In some areas of northern Nigeria, 31 percent of women aged between 15 and 49 suffer from the acute form, which is already serious but could still be addressed and treated with specific nutritional therapies.

Humanitarian initiatives. In Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria and Niger, millions of people now benefit from social protection programs supported byUNICEF and from World Food Programme, in collaboration with their respective governments. Both UN agencies are working to extend support to Chad and Burkina Faso. Likewise the FAO and theEXPRESSION (International Fund for Agricultural Development) have joined forces across the Sahel to increase productivity, availability and access to nutritious food. The organizations aim to encourage the diversification of plant, animal and aquatic production, which is the only way forward if we want to safeguard biodiversity and mitigate the effects of climate change to protect the population from hunger and poverty.

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– 2024-04-13 20:05:42

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