Food and nutrition crisis 2020

Food and nutrition crisis 2020

Act now & join forces for co-ordinated action

In support of the Regional Task Force led by ECOWAS together with UEMOA and CILSS, RPCA members are mobilising to act quickly and co-ordinate the implementation of various initiatives aimed at tackling the food and nutrition crisis 2020 in the context of COVID-19 and the persisting security crisis. This Information Hub facilitates the sharing of information on the evolution of the crisis, national response plans, regional and international initiatives, etc. It is the fruit of our collective work, which will evolve over time.

A severe food & nutrition crisis

Presentation | Country profiles (forthcoming)

  • Some 11.4 million people are estimated to be in immediate need of assistance (phases 3-5) in March-May 2020 in the 13 countries analysed in the Sahel and West Africa region, including 5.1 million in Nigeria, 1.6 million in Niger and 1.6 million in Burkina Faso. The food and nutrition situation remains difficult in conflict-affected areas such as the Lake Chad basin, the Liptako-Gourma region as well as in northern and northwestern Nigeria.
  • By June-August 2020, 17 million people (6.2%) are projected to be in a crisis situation or worse, including 1.2 million in an emergency situation (phase 4), if appropriate measures are not taken in the short term. This is more than double the number of people usually affected in an average year. This deterioration is mainly due to the security situation.
  • The security crisis and the Covid-19 health crisis could tip over 51 million additional people (currently “stressed” – phase 2) into a food and nutrition crisis. Many measures aimed at tackling the health crisis have interconnected short-, medium- & long term impacts on food and nutrition security in the Sahel and West Africa.
  • Acute malnutrition persists throughout the region and affects nearly 2.5 million children aged under 5 years of age in the Sahel. Poor nutritional practices, a lack of preventive action, closure of health centres and no standard treatment services for severe malnutrition are among the main causes.

Multiple crises

The region faces several crises simultaneously: security, food, health and a possible locust outbreak. The expected effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on food and nutrition security are aggravating an already difficult situation. Some 50 million additional people could fall into a food and nutrition crisis.

In countries affected by the security crisis, state budgets continue to be under strain. Governments face difficult – if not impossible – budgetary trade-offs between security, health and food emergencies. There will be increased competition for resources between the health emergency and food assistance. Moreover, development partners face many challenges related to co-ordination and alignment.


National response plans

Six countries (Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Chad, Mali, Niger and Senegal) have prepared response plans for 2020 with a total amount of over CFA francs 400 billion (EUR 61 million). Implementation will prove challenging given the serious budgetary difficulties of States and mobilisation of external resources. RPCA members urge States, with the support of their partners, to:

  • Prioritise and accelerate response implementation for populations in crisis and emergency situations, including the prevention of acute malnutrition among children under 5 years of age;
  • Update the 2020 food crisis response plans, taking into account the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Plan ahead and set up contingency plans for the desert locust threat;
  • Take proactive monitoring and assistance measures for the 50 million people “under stress” who risk falling into a crisis due to the cumulative effects of COVID-19 and the security crisis.

Examples of national responses

Many countries are currently elaborating or updating national response plans to assist the most vulnerable populations, ensure a smooth functioning of local food systems and boost local agricultural production.

Burkina Faso: A network of shops with subsidised cereal prices

Mr Salifou Ouédraogo, Minister of Agriculture and Hydro-Agricultural Development, officially opened cereal outlets in Ouagadougou on 9 April 2020. These outlets, commonly known as “boutiques témoins”, facilitate access to cereals for vulnerable people at a subsidised price of 6 000 CFA per 50 kg-bag. Some 150 shops will gradually become operational throughout the country; 23 of the 33 outlets are already open in the Central region of Burkina Faso. About 10 tonnes of maize are expected to be sold per week in each shop. In total, the government intends to sell some 25 000 tonnes of cereals to vulnerable people. Find out more

Côte d’Ivoire: 300 billion CFA support plan for the agricultural sector

Mr Kobenan Kouassi Adjoumani, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, announced on 10 April 2020 a plan to support the agricultural sector with nearly 300 billion CFA (EUR 457.2 million) to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 health crisis. The plan foresees an investment of 50 billion CFA in order to help avoid a possible food crisis, including urgent measures (agricultural kits for producers) for April-June 2020. As for post-COVID-19 measures, the plan also aims to develop other production sites, build storage facilities, establish a national food reserve and promote ploughing and mechanical harvesting. The cash crop sector will benefit from an investment of 250 billion CFA to support key sectors such as cashew nut, cocoa, coffee, cotton, rubber and oil palm, which are heavily affected by the export freeze. Find out more

Mali: 8 billion CFA support plan for various segments of the agricultural sector

Ms Safia Boly, Mali’s Minister  for Private Investment Promotion and Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises and Entrepreneurship, announced on 23 April 2020 a series of measures forvarious segments of the agricultural sector for a total amount of 8 billion CFA (EUR 12.2 million). The measures aim to strengthen the resilience of the sector’s key players in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Early Warning Unit of the Food Security Commission has published its first information bulletin to monitor the food and nutrition situation. Find out more

Niger: update of the national response plan

The National Food Crisis Prevention and Management System in Niger through its Early Warning System Co-ordination Unit conducted an analysis to take into account the impacts of COVID-19 on food and nutrition security. The analysis revealed that some 5.6 million people might be facing a crisis situation during the lean period in June-August 2020 (compared to 2 million people estimated earlier without taking into account the impacts of Covid-19). The government’s response plan targets 2.7 million people for the period June-August 2020, including 2.4 million in rural areas. Results of the analysis and response plan (French)

Nigeria: national response plan focused on nutrition issues and immediate conditional cash transfers 

The Food and nutrition response plan focuses on nutrition issues to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 and prevent malnutrition among young children and other vulnerable groups. Moreover, President Muhammadu Buhari announced on 29 March 2020 that conditional cash transfers will be paid immediately for the next two months. Internally displaced persons shall receive two months of food rations in the coming weeks. All vehicles conveying food and other essential humanitarian items will be screened thoroughly before they are allowed to enter areas with restricted access. Find out more

Senegal: Food kits for 1 million vulnerable households

The Government of Senegal launched a large-scale operation at the end of April 2020 to support 1 million vulnerable households with foodkits, representing some 8 to 10 million people out of a population of 16 million. One kit consists of 100 kg of rice, 10 kg of soap, sugar, oil and pasta, worth 66 000 CFA (EUR 100). With a budget of 69 billion CFA (EUR 105 million), the operation aims to mitigate against some of the effects of COVID-19. Find out more

Togo: An agricultural response plan to support Togolese farmers

Mr Noël Koutera Bataka, Togolese Minister of Agriculture, Animal Production and Fisheries, announced on 27 April 2020, an agricultural response plan to the COVID-19 pandemic aimed at increasing production levels. The plan is composed of three pillars and takes into account support measures for the 2020-21 agricultural campaign: 1) support for agricultural equipment (ploughing, stump removal and irrigation kits); 2) promotion of better labour mobility through a dedicated agency; and 3) subsidised credits for inputs at 0% interest rate targeting nine crops (cotton, maize, rice, soybean, sesame, ginger, tomato, onion and chilli). Find out more

National response plans and COVID-19 specific measures

Regional responses

ECOWAS and UEMOA are supporting their Member States in managing the current health emergency while setting up support for member countries to address the food and nutrition crisis. The West African Health Organisation (WAHO) is leading the regional response to COVID-19 in terms of co-ordination, collaboration and communication across the 15 Member States of ECOWAS. Moreover, ECOWAS ministers in charge of agriculture decided to set up a Regional Task Force to monitor the impact of the COVID-19 on food and nutrition security and support decision-making, in close collaboration with UEMOA and CILSS.


  • USD 10 billion Response Facility, announced on 8 April 2020, aimed at helping African countries to fast-track their efforts to contain the rapid spread of COVID-19. The Facility entails USD 5.5 billion for sovereign operations in member countries, USD 3.1 billion for sovereign and regional operations for countries under the African Development Fund, the Bank Group’s concessional arm that caters to fragile countries and USD 1.4 billion for private sector operations

African Union


  • COVID Facility, including measures for additional liquidity of CFA francs 340 billion (EUR 520 million), company rating of 1 700 companies and an interest-subsidy fund.



  • Regional Strategic Plan with an indicative budget of USD 51 million;
  • Purchase of critical medical supplies and equipment for Member States including test kits, personal protective equipment and medicine;
  • Co-ordination across the African Taskforce for COVID-19; Reference Laboratory Technical Working Group and the Africa Centre for Disease Control (Africa CDC);
  • Dissemination of a weekly epidemiological bulletin to Member States ministries of health, directors of national public health institutes and partners.


International initiatives

The international development community has launched substantial international responses to the pandemic. The various initiatives will require sustained action by many actors to address the immediate public health and humanitarian crisis and simultaneous support for economic, environmental and social resilience. Co-ordination and alignment with the region’s priorities are of paramount importance, as underlined by the Joint Statement of the OECD Development Assistance Committee.


Multilateral initiatives


  • Team Europe package, launched on 28 March 2020, to support partner countries with more than EUR 15.6 billion from existing programmes. The total support is set to reach more than EUR 20 billion. The support package is designed for most vulnerable countries in Africa, but also for EU’s neighbourhood and other parts of the world. Updates on EU-COVID-19 Actions
  • Burkina Faso: ~ 1 EUR million EU support for the implementation of short-term health priorities, aligned with the national health response plan. Op-ed of EU Ambassador Wolfram Vetter
  • Nigeria:  N21 billion Naira (EUR 50 million) EU support for co-ordinated implementation of the 10 key pillars of the National COVID-19 Response Plan
  • EU-UN Spotlight Initiative in Nigeria works against gender-based violence during the COVID-19.



Sahel Alliance

  • Press review on Sahelian countries focusing on the fight against COVID-19


  • Launch of communication campaigns to promote safe behaviour and proposals on how to talk with children about the disease
  • Adaption of cash transfer programmes to reach children in response to the crisis as well as rapidly expanding access to healthcare and other services.



World Bank Group

Bilateral initiatives

  • France: “COVID-19 – Common health” Initiative, launched by AFD, to support African countries tackling the health crisis. The initiative has a budget of EUR 1.2 billion to be spent by July 2021: EUR 1 billion in loans to support short-term challenges of partner countries and development banks; and EUR 150 million in grants. Interview with Rémy Rioux, AFD Director-General

COVID-19 impacts on food and nutrition security

Many measures aimed at tackling the health crisis have interconnected short-, medium- & long term impacts on food and nutrition security in the Sahel and West Africa. The COVID-19 pandemic affects food systems directly through impacts on food supply and demand, supply chain disruptions, possible collapse of local food systems but also indirectly through loss of incomes and employment, reduced social services, etc. Moreover, livelihoods of most vulnerable populations might be seriously deteriorated in the long term. While it is difficult to analyse the impacts of measures separately, we propose to look at some of the key impacts.

Mobility restrictions and border closures

Airports are nearly all closed for international passenger flights. Exemptions include flight related to humanitarian aid, medical and relief flights. Most of the land borders are closed or only open for essential trade. Country-internal transport is also slowed down or blocked by various mobility restrictions. Many food insecure areas are hard-to-reach, which makes it difficult to analyse the situation and to deliver assistance. Humanitarian access is now becoming even more difficult facing additional logistics hurdles which impede the timely delivery of urgent humanitarian and food assistance. Moreover, restriction on internal and cross-borders movement limit markets access and also hamper intra-regional trade in seeds, inputs and fertilizers, which is vital to prepare the next agricultural season. Current restrictions | Food Export Restriction Tracker

Curfews and lockdowns

Many countries have established night-time curfews (i.e. Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, Senegal, Togo, etc.) or total movement bans in key cities (Nigeria). While both measures are difficult to enforce involving the intervention of armed forces, they already have a strong impact, notably on informal urban food trade. It will be important to monitor the food security and nutrition status of urban populations. Moreover, curfews and closing contribute to increasing the unemployment levels, particularly affecting most vulnerable groups who have fewer resources to cope with the loss of income, higher food prices and other impacts of the crisis. Viewpoints: COVID-19 lockdowns threaten Africa’s vital informal urban food trade and Curfews are a safer plan than total lockdowns to slow Covid-19’s spread in informal economies

Market closures 

At least two-thirds of food needs in the region are met by markets. Many markets have been closed or operate with reduced activity. Smallholder farmers incomes are shrinking and their purchasing power is decreasing due to important harvests loss. Market closures also represents a significant income loss for many other actors of the food supply chain. Closure of non-essential trade, closure or restriction of markets, mobility restrictions, etc. might lead to supply chain disruptions, significant loss of income, and severe deterioration of livelihoods of the most vulnerable populations. The Covid-19 crisis could quickly put a strain on the food supply chains, a “complex web of interactions involving farmers, agricultural inputs, processing plants, shipping, retailers and more”.

Global measures impacting local economies

Food commodities prices have been volatile throughout 2019 requiring close monitoring. While the imported rice price decreased by more than 10% compared to the five-year average in many West African countries, import bans and border closures (unrelated to Covid-19) caused imported rice prices to increase by more than 30% in Nigeria. Moreover, consumer price index for food is at its highest since 2008 in the UEMOA area. In addition to seasonal price increases during the lean season, Covid-19-related price increases and supply restrictions or disruptions could aggravate food insecurity, particularly for import dependent countries. Countries with a production deficit (i.e. Gambia, Senegal, Sierra Leone) already experience rising prices of dry cereals as stocks decline.

School closures

Nationwide school closures are now in force in all 17 countries of the Sahel and West Africa region. The closure of schools has a negative impact on the nutrition of school children who no longer benefit from regular school feeding and nutrition services during the pandemic. According to WFP data, more than 20 million children in the Sahel and West Africa are missing out on school meals.




Impacts on food and nutrition security

Socio-economic impacts

Key documents


African Union






Global Network against Food Crises | Food Security Information Network








World Bank


English version | French version



About the Technical Unit

Faced with this unprecedented crisis, the members of the RPCA Steering Committee decided to create a technical unit to support the regional task force, set up by the regional organisations (ECOWAS, UEMOA and CILSS), in its efforts to monitor and support decision-making.

Its mission is to:

  • Collect, summarise and disseminate information on the evolution of the crisis, national response plans, regional and international initiatives, etc.;
  • Capitalise and communicate on the analyses conducted by stakeholders, and draw recommendations for decision-makers;
  • Disseminate the work of the Cadre harmonisé technical committee providing updates on the areas and numbers of people at risk of food and nutrition insecurity.

In a nutshell, the technical unit aims to make sure that food and nutrition security issues are taken into account in COVID-19 response strategies, including measures to revive and boost agri-food systems. Building on the PREGEC Charter, the work will also contribute to promoting alignment and a co-ordinated implementation of different initiatives with a view to improving their effectiveness and impact.

RPCA Steering Committee Communiqué | Summary of conclusions


Members of the Technical Unit

Co-ordinated by the two co-facilitators of the RPCA, CILSS and the SWAC/OECD Secretariat, the technical unit relies on contributions from focal points designated by RPCA members.

As of 12 June 2020, the following RPCA members have appointed focal points:

Regional organisations


International development partners & networks 

Information Systems

Civil society organisations