Like in Nigeria, Number of Hungry People Racing Upward in Central America – WFP

151 views | Akanimo Sampson | February 24, 2021

Like Nigeria, hunger in Central America has zoomed from 2.2 million people in 2018 to close to eight million people this 2021.

2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, World Food Programme (WFP), an agency of the UN says the situation in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua has increased almost fourfold over the past two years as a result of the economic crisis caused by COVID-19 and years of extreme climate events.

Of the eight million figure 1.7 million people are in the ‘Emergency’ category of food insecurity and require urgent food assistance, WFP says.

Many people too in Nigeria are facing hunger and are in need of help. The Boko Haram Insurgency and the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated the problem of food insecurity in the country. As a result, the government and outside organisations are stepping in to help those in need and work to decrease hunger in Nigeria. 

A resident of the Lagos slums, Folashade Samuel,  said “we were scrambling for food when my sister with a young baby on her back was pushed away, and she had to give up. The situation is very, very tough. It is very dangerous to scramble for food because you can fall and get trampled on.”

COVID-19 lockdowns and the border closures to smash smuggling, posed danger to the agricultural sector, which forms the base of the Nigerian economy. For most Nigerians, agriculture serves as the primary source of livelihood, with the sector employing 36.5% of the entire labour force. 

More than 30 million naira (about $77,500) was lost as of last May in the yam markets alone because of the pandemic lockdowns.

In order to combat the pandemic’s adverse effects on agriculture, Abuja created a task force. The task force created ID cards to enabled agricultural workers move freely. The agriculture ministry and central bank are working to provide support through locally produced fertilizers and financial expansion for farmers.

However, WFP Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Miguel Barreto, says “considering the level of destruction and setbacks faced by those affected, we expect this to be a long and slow recovery. 2020 was a year to forget across the world, and even more so for communities in Central America that were dealt a series of blows.”

With homes and farms destroyed, food stocks running low and job opportunities shrinking, nearly 15 percent of people surveyed by WFP in January 2021 said that they were making concrete plans to migrate. In a 2018 post-drought assessment only eight percent of respondents indicated they were planning to migrate.

The record 2020 Atlantic hurricane season dealt a severe blow to millions who were previously relatively untouched by hunger, among them people dependent on the service economy, tourism and informal jobs.

Hurricanes Eta and Iota that struck Central America in November 2020 upended the lives of 6.8 million people who lost their homes and livelihoods.

The hurricanes destroyed over 200,000 hectares of staple food and cash crops in the four countries and more than 10,000 hectares of coffee farmland in Honduras and Nicaragua. The hurricanes struck as these communities were already dealing with job losses and a shrinking economy, a fallout of COVID-19.

WFP surveys estimate that food security in Central America nosedived as a result of COVID-19. The number of households that did not have enough to eat during COVID-19 nearly doubled in Guatemala compared to pre-pandemic numbers.

In Honduras, it increased by more than 50 percent. An overwhelming majority of households in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador reported income losses or unemployment during the pandemic.

“Urban and rural communities in Central America have hit rock bottom. The COVID-19-induced economic crisis had already put food on the market shelves out of reach for the most vulnerable people when the twin hurricanes Eta and Iota battered them further,” said Barreto. “Many now have nowhere to live and are staying in temporary shelters, surviving on next to nothing”.

Communities in Central America have borne the brunt of a climate emergency, where consecutive years of drought and erratic weather have disrupted food production – especially staples like maize and beans, which depend heavily on regular rainfall.

WFP calls on the international community to support its efforts in Central America to provide urgent humanitarian assistance and to invest in long-term development projects and national social protection programmes that help vulnerable communities withstand recurrent weather extremes and economic shocks.

WFP plans to assist 2.6 million people in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua in 2021 and requires $47.3 million over the next six months.

Broadcast quality content with shot list can be found here, and high resolution photos here.

In the mean time, in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, 3.4 million people, according to WFP, are facing acute hunger and 300.000 children are suffering from acute malnutrition.

Conflict is seriously affecting the lives and livelihoods of millions of citizens in North-East Nigeria.  Violence and insecurity are causing mass movements of people, with 1.75 million living in camps or host communities within the country and tens of thousands seeking refuge in neighbouring countries, including Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

Many of those who left the country are now returning, needing food and shelter. Joint efforts by the Buhari administration and the humanitarian community, including WFP, have managed to stabilise an extremely serious food security situation.

However, 4.3 million people are still entirely depending on food assistance and funding will continue to be needed to support immediate assistance as well as longer-term recovery and development programmes.

Meanwhile, WFP has the following updates on the facts surrounding the tragic security incident in the east of DR Congo on February 22:

The security incident involved a group of seven people travelling in two of its vehicles on the road from Goma to Rutshuru in the east of DR Congo where they were planning to visit a WFP school feeding programme. 

The group comprised five employees of the World Food Programme who were accompanying the Italian Ambassador to DRC and his security escort. 

The group left Goma at approximately 09:00 am, local time.  

At approximately 10:15 am, local time, the two vehicles were stopped by an armed group and all passengers were forced to disembark from the cars.  The WFP driver of one of the vehicles, Mustapha Milambo was killed at this time. 

The remaining six passengers were then forced into the surrounding bush at gunpoint where there was an exchange of fire. 

During the exchange of fire, the Italian Ambassador, Luca Attanasio and his security escort, Vittorio Iacovacci, were mortally injured and subsequently died. 

The four other passengers in the group – all WFP staff – are safe and accounted for.  They include WFP Deputy Country Director in DRC, Rocco Leone, WFP School Feeding Programme Assistant, Fidele Zabandora, WFP Security Officer, Mansour Rwagaza, and WFP Driver, Claude Mukata. 

The United Nations Department for Safety and Security (UNDSS) will be leading a detailed review of the incident.

WFP is UN’s largest global humanitarian organisation, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

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