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Africa: Nothing to eat as food crisis is escalating

Nothing to eat as food crisis is escalating
Hungry African child eating biscuits

The food crisis in Africa has been exacerbated by a changing climate, increased war, and unproductive farming, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which has called for immediate and long-term measures.

According to recent assessments by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the African Union, the food crisis affects an estimated 346 million people in Africa (AU).

“Food and water are in short supply. You can flee the battle, but you won’t be able to flee the drought “Deeko Adan Warsame, the chair of Guriel’s women’s council in northern Somalia, agrees. Ms Warsame’s statements encapsulate Africa’s severe food crisis, which is set to worsen in the coming months. Somalia has been very heavily struck. The ongoing drought has put livestock, a vital source of income in the Horn of Africa, in jeopardy. It compounded previously unheard-of animal losses due to a lack of forage and water.

The remaining animals have become famished and weak as a result of the loss of 1.5 million livestock. Crop production in the region is between 58 percent and 70 percent below average.

What is happening in Somalia is also happening in neighboring countries in the Horn of Africa, as well as in the Sahel zone.

In recent years, rain-fed agriculture in the Horn of Africa has nearly universally failed. Many farmers have no choice but to abandon their land and relocate to major cities in search of alternate sources of income.

Malnutrition rates are rising as people’s purchasing power declines and access to nutritious food and treatment becomes more limited. Kenya and the Central African Republic are also experiencing high malnutrition rates.

“This is a calamity that is mostly going unrecognized. Millions of people go hungry, and children die as a result of malnutrition “Dominik Stillhart, the International Committee of the Red Cross’s global operations director, agrees.

From Mauritania and Burkina Faso in the west to Somalia and Ethiopia in the east, the continent is gripped by a food crisis. In response, the ICRC will expand operations in ten countries, working together with other Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement components to assist an extra 2.8 million people.

“We’re expanding our activities in Somalia, Kenya, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and other countries to help as many people as possible,” Mr. Stillhart says, “but the number of people going without food and water is startling.

In the Central Africa’s Democratic Republic of the Congo, 27 million people, or 25% of the population, suffer from severe food insecurity.

Conflict and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on markets have had a negative influence on inhabitants in Central and West Sahel.

Conflict in the region has wreaked havoc on the economy and prompted more than seven million people to flee their homes. Burkina Faso is the country with the fastest surge in displaced individuals, with a nearly three-fold increase in the last year.

The situation in the Sahel, particularly in Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso, is particularly concerning, as a combination of food shortages and conflict drives populations to the edge. Violence is upsetting the socio-economic balance that has prevailed for decades, exacerbating the food and water shortages.

Malnutrition affects 10.5 million individuals in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, and Mauritania, according to estimates. During the upcoming lean season, almost 1.2 million individuals are expected to be in stage four of the food insecurity index (the period between harvests).

“What bothers me now is hunger, but it’s also the face of my children who don’t realize that there are days when I come home with nothing in my hands,” says a Burkinabe widowed mother of six. She was engaging with representatives from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Conflict, climatic shocks such as East Africa’s droughts and West Africa’s poor cumulative rainfalls, a major increase in displaced people, and rising food and fuel prices have all contributed to the region’s overwhelming requirements. Many of the countries affected are still dealing with the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, further aggravating problems.

Due to insecurity and fighting in Russia and Ukraine, there is also limited access to vulnerable communities. Together, the two countries account for a fourth of global wheat and grain production.

Somalia (over 90% dependent on wheat from Russia and Ukraine), the Democratic Republic of Congo (over 80% dependent on wheat from Russia and Ukraine), Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Sudan are among the countries most affected by the current food insecurity issue (all between approximately 20-45 percent dependent).

“With this crisis, we need more people on board. The ICRC’s main task is to keep people alive, yet this isn’t nearly enough. A crisis of this magnitude necessitates a concerted effort from governments, humanitarian partners, and funders to focus on mid-and long-term support to assist individuals who have been impacted in regaining their footing. This must be the first priority “Mr. Stillhart adds.

Food insecurity is not a new problem, according to Zakaria Maiga, the ICRC’s food insecurity crisis expert, and former Sahel operations coordinator.

This time, the difference is “the intensity of the situation: driven by the rapid pace of climate change and numerous complexities not seen in the past, such as the loss of basic services; poverty, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic; and the deterioration of security with the rise of intercommunal violence linked to water scarcity and non-state armed conflict, driven by political instability and cultural tensions.

Mr. Maiga is supported by Patrick Youssef, the ICRC’s regional director for Africa.

We communicate and answer every year, but this year is different. Something like this hasn’t happened in Somalia in 40 years. Floods have wreaked havoc in Mali’s interior, reducing cereal production to 20% of typical levels — resulting in massive food shortages.

This has prompted a more drastic reaction, requiring the organization to go beyond food distribution and collaborate with partners to enhance systems.

“As an institution, we’re really serious about our long-term humanitarian impact objectives and mobilizing partners to address the core causes of food insecurity, not simply the symptoms,” Patrick adds.

The ICRC has been working in Africa for decades to address the effects of food insecurity, but getting beyond the symptoms to address the fundamental causes requires more collaboration and lobbying with development partners. It will continue to focus its efforts on rural communities affected by hostilities that are difficult to reach or inaccessible to other groups due to security and access issues..

Increasing distributions of therapeutic food for treating malnourished children and pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, and increased distributions of seed, farming tools and equipment, livestock and/or fodder, or cash/vouchers for buying these, to farming and herding households, are just a few of the specific activities the ICRC will undertake.

The ICRC, along with other components of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, is providing assistance in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Nigeria, the Central African Republic, Chad, Cameroon, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Mauritania, where the food security crisis is most acute.