Coping with the 2021 food and nutrition crisis

Coping with the 2021 food and nutrition crisis

CILSS and the SWAC Secretariat, co-facilitators of the RPCA, have reactivated the Network’s Technical Unit set up in April 2020. This includes the Cadre harmonisé technical committee’s mechanism for monitoring the food situation in countries, and the information hub on  the Network’s website. The aim is to i) facilitate information sharing ; ii) encourage a rapid and co-ordinated response to the emergency, and iii) build political commitment to sustainable alternatives in the face of recurring crises and growing needs for food assistance

Food situation

For the second consecutive year, the region is facing an unprecedented food and nutrition crisis. The Cadre harmonisé analysis indicates that 27.1 million people, including 12.8 million in Nigeria, might require urgent food and nutrition assistance by June-August 2021, if appropriate measures are not taken. An additional 67 million people “under pressure” (phase 2) could fall into a crisis situation.

Food insecurity hotspots are expanding to the Gulf of Guinea in an alarming manner. In addition to recurrent hotspots in the Liptako-Gourma region, the Lake Chad Basin and northern Nigeria, the Gulf of Guinea has become a new hotspot over the past two years. This food emergency, caused by inflation, concerns Liberia and Sierra Leone, which could affect approximately 0.94 and 1.8 million people respectively during the 2021 lean season. Sierra Leone has recorded more than 1 million people in a food  crisis situation for the second consecutive year.

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Nutrition situation

The overall nutritional situation could deteriorate further in 2021 as the security crisis persists, causing health centres and schools to close and depriving children of school meals.

In 2020, four countries in the region conducted SMART nutrition surveys (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Niger). Both Burkina Faso and Niger experienced a significant increase in acute malnutrition. The surveys in Chad and Mali were conducted after the lean season; therefore, their results are not comparable to the other countries as the nutrition situation generally improves with the arrival of new crops. Concerns about a decline in exclusive breastfeeding due to the Covid-19 pandemic have not been confirmed.

The situation in 2021 remains alarming. UNICEF estimates that some 9.6 million children in the region will need treatment for acute malnutrition. This is less than last year’s estimate of 12.1 million children, but still well above the average for recent years.

Beyond acute malnutrition, the region continues to face long-term problems such as stunting, a key indicator for measuring progress towards the goal of zero hunger (SDG 2). Acutely malnourished populations overlap with those affected by stunting (map).

Pastoral situation

For pastoralists, there is enough pasture and water overall. However, following some rainfall disturbances, the lean season lasted much longer than expected. Several pastoral organisations such as APESS and RBM are carrying out monitoring activities to keep track of the situation (dashboard). PREGEC members recommended strengthening initiatives for better fodder production to keep the animals as long as possible in their home areas.

Security problems disrupt livestock mobility. Access to pastoral resources is still very limited in conflict areas. Similarly, public health measures in response to the Covid-19 pandemic continue to hamper or even block cross-border transhumance. Nearly 57 000 livestock farmers with some 1.5 million cattle were blocked in January 2021. This situation affects the livelihoods of livestock farmers and other actors in the pastoral economy. Cross-border transhumance to coastal countries (Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Togo) remains disrupted, leading to a high concentration and overexploitation of available pastoral resources in accessible areas. This increases the risk of animal health problems, and conflict between farmers and pastoralists.

National response plans

As of June 2021, six Sahelian countries have finalised and started implementing national response plans (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal). Other countries benefit from humanitarian response plans.  However, mobilising funding for response plans remains a recurring problem. Only Chad has already secured nearly half of the necessary resources (45.6%). In contrast, Mali has barely begun to mobilise domestic resources (3.8%). At the international level, the situation is similar: according to UNOCHA, at the end of June 2021, only 15% of the humanitarian and food assistance financial requirements of the West and Central African region were covered. This is well below the five-year average, which is around 50%.