Panafrican News Agency

Food security in West Africa at the centre of a high-level meeting in Niamey

Niamey, Niger (PANA) - A high-level meeting on the food and nutrition situation of in the Sahel and West Africa opened on Tuesday in Niamey, Niger, under the aegis of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in collaboration with all technical and financial partners.

Opened by Niger's Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, Gado Sabo Moctar, the meeting aims to better coordinate responses to the 2020 food and nutrition situation in the Sahel and West Africa.

Based on a consensus diagnosis provided by the Harmonized Food Situation Framework in 2019-20, some 8.54 million people are in the "worst food crisis phase" in the ECOWAS space and this number could reach 12.6 million in lean season (May-August), if appropriate action is not taken immediately.

Opening the meeting, Acting Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, Gado Sabo Moctar, said that in view of the seriousness of the situation, the Heads of State and Government instructed the ECOWAS Commission to coordinate initiatives to help affected countries and populations cope with the difficult food and nutrition situation ahead.

For example, the Regional Reserve Management Committee called on the member states concerned to quickly develop national response plans and to integrate the potential contribution of the Regional Food Security Reserve with the establishment of that plan, as well as mobilizing third parties to finance or repay the mobilized regional stock.

According to Moctar, the challenge is on meeting the needs of the people at the right time, and on managing the crisis at national and regional levels, while supporting the development of the food storage system at  national and regional levels, including the Regional Food Security Reserve.

Niger's agriculture minister stressed that in the face of the looming crisis and the urgent means to mobilize, coordination is a pressing requirement to ensure efficiency  from all stakeholders.

"This means that crisis management requires that our internal resources and the valuable support of our international partners be mobilized within a harmonized framework",  he said.

The ECOWAS  Commissioner  for Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources , Sékou Sangaré, pointed out that  ECOWAS members, such as Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal, are particularly affected by food and nutrition insecurity.

In addition, Chad and Mauritania are not ECOWAS  members.

This worsening food insecurity is a direct consequence of the deterioration of the security conditions of populations affected by terrorism and inter-communal conflicts, as well as the impacts of climate change.

Since 2019, more than 670,000 children in the central Sahel region have been forced to flee their homes due to armed conflict and insecurity.

For example, in 2020, some 4.3 million children in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger will need fortified foods to cope with nutritional deficiencies.

Sangaré noted that the increase in violence had devastating consequences for children's learning.

In late 2019, more than 3,300 schools were closed in the three countries due to violence and insecurity affecting 650,000 children and 16,000 teachers.

-0- PANA SA/JSG/BBA/AR 18Feb2020