In the coming season (June to August 2021), over 31 million people are expected to be acutely dependent on food aid, an increase of 28 percent compared to the same period last year. Of these, over 5.4 million are children who suffer from acute malnutrition in the Sahel. That’s an increase of 20 percent in a year or since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Child malnutrition is likely to increase as food insecurity rises in the coming lean season this year.
The main drivers of acute food insecurity are a complex mix of chronic poverty, increased violence and conflict fueling displacement and rising food prices, as well as an overall weakened regional macroeconomic base due to last year’s COVID-19 restrictions. In this context, a second wave of COVID-19 has struck the region, further hampering recovery.
Despite this apparently gloomy picture, there are positive forecasts for 2021. In vaccine development in particular, many countries are beginning to relax restrictions, which will benefit the region by resuming trade and tourism. Projections point to an economic recovery, with gross domestic product (GDP) for West Africa expected to grow 2.8 percent in 2021 and 3.9 percent in 2022 as lockdowns end and prices stabilize. In addition, West Africa had abundant rain last year and normal to above average rainfall is forecast for 2021. There are even projections of a food surplus for the region this year. But the availability of sufficient food does not always mean food security; Access is vital, both economically and physically. This document analyzes these patterns of food supply and access, highlighting the nature and driving forces underlying the rising trends in food insecurity in the region.
As economies begin to recover, the most vulnerable – those who have been pushed further into poverty and food insecurity as a result of the pandemic – will need sustained and focused support. Research Assessment and Monitoring (RAM) of the World Food Program The unit has developed new tools and analyzes to support operational and political decision-making in this new context, where needs are increasing, resources are limited and conflicts are making access difficult.
In conflict areas where physical access is restricted, the analysis of satellite images helps the WFP and its partners to get a better picture of the effects of insecurity on agricultural production. These analyzes help with needs assessments carried out by governments and humanitarian partners in the region – see page 9 for more details.
Similarly, a hotspot analysis conducted by WFP and UNICEF based on the Cadre Harmonize (CH) / Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis, as well as other information such as nutrition surveys and statistics, identified priority areas for food security and interventions Food insecure population (i.e. population in CH phase 3 or higher) as well as the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and conflict data – see page 12 for further details.