Food Coalition

Humanitarian response Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) - Sierra Leone

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, food access in Sierra Leone was already constrained due to inflation and the depreciation of local currency for the past three years, with below-average crop production and high dependency on imported foodstuffs. Furthermore, the effects of the 2014–2016 Ebola virus disease outbreak in the country are still felt today. There is, therefore, an urgent need to address not only health-related needs, but also the social and economic conditions of the most vulnerable populations.

Following the first reported cases of COVID-19 in the country in March 2020, the Government put in place urgent and essential measures, including lockdown, movement restrictions and market closures to slow the spread of the virus. In addition, the fear of contracting the virus led over 60 percent of the population to stay at home, resulting in a general economic slowdown and income losses.

Below-average cereal production resulted in increased import requirements for 2020 in the context of inflation and depreciation of the exchange rate that has been continuously occurring for three years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite a timely start to the rainy season in late March, the 2020 main planting season (April–July) for rice – the main staple crop – is being disrupted by movement restrictions, and limited access to land, inputs and agricultural labour. Significant seed shortages have been reported due to market disruptions, while farmers have  consumed part of the seeds meant for planting as they were struggling to access food. This is all likely to affect the outcome of the 2020 main cropping season as well as the following season.

The effects of COVID-19 on the supply chain of food and other imported commodities have exacerbated the existing trends of increased food prices in Sierra Leone. Cereal prices were already above average due to currency depreciation and high dependency on food imports. In March 2020, the majority of households were spending most of their income on food, and since then income losses and a decline in remittances have further hampered access to food. In addition, the effects of the essential health-related containment measures have affected the flow of farm produce to markets.

The latest Cadre Harmonisé (March 2020) projected that over 1.3 million people would face acute food insecurity at crisis or worse levels during the lean season (June–August 2020), mainly in the districts Bonthe, Kenema and Moyamba; however, the analysis was carried out prior the COVID-19 pandemic and did not take into account its effects nor of the related containment measures. The situation has been exacerbated by market disruptions, mainly affecting smallholder farmers, urban slum dwellers and other vulnerable groups such as female-headed households. The main causes of food insecurity include limited access to markets and increased food prices, and subsequent adoption of negative coping mechanisms such as reduced and irregular food consumption.

Priority Areas of work: Global Humanitarian Response Plan
SDG: 1. No Poverty, 2. Zero Hunger, 5. Gender Equality, 16. Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Level: Country
Country: Sierra Leone
Budget: USD 4.25 million

Action Sheet:  SL_CB0210EN.pdf

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