FAO Regional Office for Africa

FAO, UNICEF AND WFP call for urgent and long-lasting action in West and Central Africa as the region faces another year of record hunger with thousands experiencing catastrophic levels of food insecurity

Joint FAO/UNICEF/WFP News Release

© FAO

DAKAR – The number of hungry people in West and Central Africa is projected to reach an all-time high of 48 million people (including 9 million children) next year if urgent and long-lasting solutions are not delivered soon. The latest Cadre Harmonisé food security analysis shows that over 35 million people (including 6.7 million children) in the region - approximately 8 percent of the assessed population - are currently unable to meet their basic food and nutrition needs. 

The situation is particularly worrying in conflict-affected areas of the Lake Chad Basin, and the Liptako-Gourma region (Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger), where 25,500 people will experience catastrophic hunger during the lean season (June-August 2023). This is the period of the year when food stocks from the previous harvest are exhausted, and families struggle to meet their basic food needs until the next harvest.

In a joint statement at the annual meeting of the Network for the Prevention of Food Crisis in West Africa (RPCA) in Lomé (Togo), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) urge governments across the region to increase support and financial investment in food security and nutrition  programmes that reinforce the resilience of populations, protect their livelihoods while reducing the risk of people falling into catastrophic food insecurity. 

” The food and nutrition security outlook for 2023 is extremely worrying and this should be the last wake-up call to governments of the region and partners.” said Chris Nikoi, WFP’s Regional Director for Western Africa Region. “To pull back from this precipice, before it is too late, strengthening resilience of communities has to become a singular and collective focus of all for us” Nikoi added.

Despite the good harvest prospects, improved market situation, and increased cereal production estimates across the region, food insecurity and malnutrition persist and expand from the Sahel towards coastal countries due to persistent insecurity, climate shocks, high food prices, the economic fallout from COVID-19, and the impact of the Ukraine conflict.

 Across Benin, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Togo, the Cadre Harmonisé analysis reveals a 20 percent increase in food insecurity in the last quarter of 2022, compared to the same period last year. In Nigeria alone, 25 million women, men and children are facing moderate or worse food insecurity, meaning they can easily fall into emergency food security situation if no immediate response is provided.

“The Sahel is teetering on the brink of full-blown catastrophe; we are seeing food availability decline in most countries, and fertilizer prices are on the rise”, said Robert Guei, FAO’s Sub-regional Coordinator for West Africa. “This could have a negative impact on harvests next year and worsen an already-grave situation for many rural communities. We must act now to shore-up rural livelihoods before it is too late” Guei added.

Despite efforts by governments and their partners, acute malnutrition in children under 5, is of concern particularly in Sahel countries and in Nigeria with rates exceeding the 15 per cent emergency threshold in some areas in Sénégal (Louga and Matam), Mauritania (Gorgol and Guidimaka), north-eastern Nigeria (Yobe and nord Borno states) and Niger (Dogon and Doutchi).

The global acute malnutrition rate also exceeds 10 percent in many areas around the Lake Chad Basin (Niger, Nigeria and Chad) and the tri-border areas between Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. Conflict, population displacement, limited access to basic social services, including health care, education, water, hygiene, and sanitation, unaffordability of nutritious diets are among the underlying causes of the acute malnutrition in children under 5, pregnant women and nursing mothers across the region.

“The latest data indicates continuing unacceptably high levels of severe wasting for children in many countries in West and Central Africa, leaving a devastating impact on the region’s future,’’ said Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa. “We need to scale up treatment and put much more attention on preventing child malnutrition through a multi-sectoral approach to reach every child.’’

The three UN agencies and their partners commit to address this unprecedented food and nutrition crisis through a robust food systems approach involving multiple and integrated programmes that provide food, nutrition, health, water, hygiene and sanitation response targeting children, women and other vulnerable groups.

FAO, UNICEF and WFP will reinforce and expand their ongoing support to national social protection systems that are responsive to shocks and sensitive to nutrition for pregnant women, nursing mothers, young children and adolescents. Building on existing systems at local, national regional levels, and with the full participation of local communities, the three UN agencies will also scale up their medium to longer term solutions aiming to reinforce resilience of crisis-affected populations, while supporting peace consolidation and living together.

UNICEF and WFP have already been working together on a joint social protection programme in Mali, Mauritania, and Niger supporting 1.8 million people, through cash-based transfers and complementary services. Both agencies also support governments to strengthen their social protection systems such as social registries, national policies, and linkages with early warning systems.  FAO works in Burkina Faso supporting 620,000 people to boost their agricultural production capacities and protect their livelihoods. The UN agency also supports the social protection system through cash-based transfers and complementary services targeting 408 000 people in the country.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

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