Extreme poverty in West Africa increased by almost 3% last year, according to a new report on the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 released today by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The report, completed in partnership with the West Africa Subregional Office for the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), indicates that the proportion of people in the region who live on less than $1.90 a day increased from 2.3% in 2020 to 2.9% in 2021. The debt burden of countries in the region has also increased in the context of a slow economic recovery, a reduction in the fiscal space and limited resource mobilization.
The COVID-19 impact study highlights the effects of preventative measures, including border closures, movement restrictions and the disruption of supply chains. All of these measures disrupted income-generating activities and exacerbated rising food prices in markets. The hardest hit are people who rely on unstable sources of income, such as small shopkeepers, street vendors and casual workers.
This deterioration in the economic situation has negatively affected the food security and nutrition situation of women, men and children. More than 25 million people in West Africa are unable to meet their basic food needs in the region, an increase of 34% compared to 2020. The situation is most serious in conflict-affected areas such as the Lake Chad Basin, Liptako- Gourma and the Sahel region, forcing people to sell their assets and livelihoods to meet their food needs.
“The coronavirus health crisis has particularly wiped out the gains made by ECOWAS and its member states in fighting food insecurity and malnutrition,” said Sekou SANGARE, ECOWAS Commissioner for Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources.
“Even if we are happy with the response of governments through the mitigation measures they have taken, we have to worry about the residual effects of the health and economic crisis, as they are likely to continue to disrupt our food systems for a long time to come. and engaging populations. access to food by multiple factors.”
The publication of this report takes place in a context marked by a fragile regional economy that is not dynamic enough to allow families to recover their pre-crisis social and economic well-being. The results of this study will enable public and private actors to provide appropriate and purposeful responses to the negative impact of COVID-19 on the lives of people in West Africa.
“The socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 call for immediate and concerted action to further strengthen people’s resilience and ability to withstand shocks,” said Chris Nikoi, WFP Regional Director for West Africa. “This report clearly shows the urgent need for governments and partners to deliberately increase investments to strengthen and scale up social protection programmes, social safety nets such as school meals, and other programs to improve livelihoods, with special emphasis on women and youth.
The Director of the ECA West Africa Sub-Regional Office, Ngone Diop, highlighted that one of the strengths of the ECOWAS-WFP-ECA alliance was “carrying out an online survey, which has mobilized nearly 8,000 respondents in just two editions “. “
Furthermore, Ms Diop said that “basing our analyzes on first-hand primary data from households directly affected by the health crisis makes it possible to offer decision-makers at the regional and national levels relevant and better-targeted policy options.”
Since the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020, ECOWAS and its partners have implemented various economic and financial measures to respond to the growing needs caused by COVID-19 in the region. In close collaboration with the West African Health Organization (WAHO), ECOWAS mobilized almost US$38 million in the first half of 2021 to meet the needs of the population.
ECOWAS member states, with the support of their technical partners, including WFP, have implemented an unprecedented expansion of social protection programs, as well as food distribution, for the most vulnerable communities. In Mali and Niger, for example, WFP, in collaboration with UNICEF and with funding from the German Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ), supports 1.4 million people and helps strengthen national social protection systems. to better respond to crises. and more sensitive to nutrition.
“WFP is committed to further engaging with ECOWAS to improve coordination and facilitate the exchange of experiences among countries, with the aim of ensuring that social protection systems in the region support food security and nutrition and provide resilience to crises”. Nikoi insisted.