More than 31 million people could be unable to feed themselves in the coming months in West and Central Africa, the World Food Programme warned on Friday, urging immediate action to prevent a “catastrophe”.
Skyrocketing food prices, plummeting economic activity due to the pandemic and violent conflict in the region mean around 30 percent more of the population risks going hungry this year over last year — levels not seen in the better part of a decade.
Prices for local food staples have increased to nearly 40 percent more than the five-year average and in some places have ballooned by over 200 percent, according to a statement from the agency.
It said “immediate action is required to prevent a catastrophe”.
“Until markets stabilize, food assistance may be the only source of hope for millions of families,” regional director for West Africa Chris Nikoi said.
“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,” he warned.
The statement said around $770 million (640 million euros) was needed for the WFP to continue to serve the region’s 19 nations.
“Failure to raise funds would spell reduced rations for people in need — especially those driven into hunger by conflict,” it added.
The warning echoed expert calls from the Food Crisis Prevention Network a week ago, which said Nigeria alone could see 12.8 million of its people go hungry.
Nigeria is currently gripped by conflicts with jihadists in the northeast and the tri-border region of Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali has also been plagued by Islamic extremist violence against civilians for years.
Nearly 10 million children in West and Central Africa under five-years-old already suffer from acute malnutrition according to the agency, and that number was likely to increase.
The statement noted the crisis was likely to peak in the months of June, July and August when resources are lowest ahead of the next harvest.