West and Central Africa – Food Security Highlights, May 2021

General

Context

Over 31 million people are projected to be in acute need of food assistance this coming season (June to August 2021), a 28 per cent increase from the same period last year.[1] Of this, over 5.4 million are children suffering from acute malnutrition within the Sahel. This is a 20 per cent increase in a year, or since before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Child malnutrition is likely to increase as food insecurity rises in the upcoming lean season this year.[2]

The key drivers of acute food insecurity are a complex mix of chronic poverty, worsening violence and conflict fuelling displacement and hikes in food prices, and an overall weakened regional macro-economic foundation due to the COVID-19 restrictions from last year. Within this context, a second wave of COVID-19 has hit the region, further hindering recovering.

Despite this seemingly dire picture, there are positive projections for 2021. Especially with the development of vaccines, many countries are beginning to ease restrictions, which will benefit the region through the resumption of trade and tourism. Forecasts point towards an economic recovery, with the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for West Africa expected to grow by 2.8 per cent in 2021 and 3.9 per cent in 2022, as lockdowns cease and prices stabilise.[3] In addition, West Africa had ample rain last year and normal to above-average rainfall is projected for 2021. There are even projections for a surplus of food for the region this year.[4] Yet the availability of sufficient food doesn’t always equate to food security; access is equally critical, both economically and physical. This document analyzes these patterns of food supply and access and highlights the nature and drivers that underpin rising food insecurity trends in the region.

As economies begin to recover, the most vulnerable – those who have been pushed further into poverty and food insecurity due to the pandemic – will need sustained and concentrated support. World Food Programme’s Research Assessment and Monitoring (RAM)[5] Unit has developed new tools and analyses to inform operational and policy decision-making within this new context where needs are increasing, resources are limited, and conflict is making access more difficult.

In conflict-affected areas, where physical access is constrained, analysis of satellite imagery helps WFP and partners to get a more accurate picture of the impact of insecurity on agricultural production. These analyses help inform needs assessments done by governments and humanitarian partners in the region – see page 9 for more details.

Similarly, a hotspot analysis undertaken by WFP and UNICEF has identified priority areas for food security and nutrition interventions based on the Cadre Harmonise (CH)/Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis, as well as other information such as nutrition surveys and numbers of food insecure populations (i.e. populations in CH Phase 3 or higher), as well as the number of internally displaced populations (IDPs) and conflict data – see page 12 for more details.

Source: World Food Programme