Number of hungry people spikes in Central Sahel as COVID19 looms
The humanitarian crisis in the Central Sahel region of Africa is spiralling out of control – with more than 5 million people facing severe food insecurity across the region, according to a new joint food security assessment released by food security partners including the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).
The dramatic spike in the number of hungry people comes at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is spreading into fragile countries in a region home to the weakest health systems anywhere in the world.
Burkina Faso – which has seen the largest number of officially-reported deaths from COVID-19 anywhere in sub-Saharan Africa – is where the number of food insecure is expected to more than triple to 2.1 million people as the lean season sets-in in June, up from over 680,000 at the same time last year.
“This is a crisis layered on top of a crisis, and the situation risks getting out of hand,” said Chris Nikoi, WFP’s Regional Director for West Africa. “People are on the brink – we must step up now to save lives – we are the only hope for millions.”
“Our message to the world is clear – look away now and the consequences will be no less than catastrophic,” added Nikoi.
Across the Central Sahel – a region that encompasses Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger – the situation is extremely worrying, with the number of hungry rising steadily as the crisis deepens, also pushing 1.3 million people in Mali and 2 million people in Niger into severe food insecurity.
The number of internally displaced people has also increased four-fold across the Central Sahel, with numbers spiking in Burkina Faso to 780,000 up from half a million at the start of the year. These communities have been forced from their homes by extremist violence and now rely almost entirely on external assistance to survive.