Over 31m W/Africans at risk of acute malnutrition due to high food prices – UN

RISING food prices and conflict have raised the number of people facing hunger in West Africa by more than 30 per cent compared with the same period in 2019, according to the World Food Programme (WFP).

More than 31 million people in the region are expected to be food insecure and unable to feed themselves between June and August of 2021, a period when food is scarce ahead of the next harvest, the United Nations organisation said in a statement.

WFP’s Regional Director for West Africa Chris Nikoi said the situation could be more dire as the rise in food prices might accelerate growing concerns for hunger and desperation.

“In West Africa, conflict is already driving hunger and misery, the relentless rise in prices acts as a misery multiplier, driving millions deeper into hunger and desperation.

“Even when food is available, families simply cannot afford it – and soaring prices are pushing a basic meal beyond the reach of millions of poor families who were already struggling to get by,” he said.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in its monthly report in February, said that food prices, which made up the bulk of the inflation basket, rose to 21.79 per cent, signifying 1.22 percentage point in January.

Staples such as bread, cereals, potatoes, fruits and oil also drove the increase in the food price index, the NBS said in its report. Core inflation was driven by increases in prices of passenger transport, medical services and cars.



    This was partly attributed  to restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, which threw many people out of work.

    The Boko Haram insurgency in the North, a weakening currency and higher fuel prices have also contributed to rising food prices, according to SBM Intelligence, a Nigerian research firm.

    In the first three months of 2021, WFP estimated that 10 million children under five years were acutely malnourished across West Africa, and the numbers could rise significantly alongside the projected 30 per cent increase in hunger, coupled with high prices of nutritious foods.

    “Until markets stabilise, food assistance may be the only source of hope for millions of families. The needs are immense, and unless we can raise the funds we need, we simply won’t be able to keep up. We cannot let 2021 become the year of the ration cut,” Nikoi warned.

    Amos Abba is a journalist with the International Center for Investigative Reporting, ICIR, who believes that courageous investigative reporting is the key to social justice and accountability in the society.

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