The continent of Africa is on the cusp of what the UN has called a “hunger pandemic” in parallel to coronavirus. As it turns out, the worst affected are the chronically deprived conflict areas, notably Yemen, South Sudan, a swathe of Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The continental crisis calls for a concerted effort on the part of the comity of nations. News of people dying of hunger can be no less devastating than the awesome spread of the dreaded virus. Reports from the UN headquarters do suggest that the risk of famine has been intensified in these countries by what the UN team’s report to the Security Council calls “natural disasters, economic shocks and public health crises, all compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic”.
There is an alarming connotation to the document that has been advanced to the UN Council ~ “Together, these factors are endangering the lives of millions of men, women and children”.
Despite acute food deprivation and relentless armed conflicts ~ in Yemen for instance over the past five years ~ humanitarian providers of relief have not been able to distribute relief. The civil war between Houthi rebels and a Saudi-backed military coalition has left 80 per cent of the country dependent on outside assistance. Visuals of a malnourished child in the arms of his sister at a camp in Yemen poignantly reaffirms the hunger, almost endemic in Africa.
The findings assume significance in the context of the World Food Programme’s caveat to the Council ~ “While the world is contending with the coronavirus pandemic, we are also on the brink of a hunder pandemic”. Verliy has the WFP reinforced the warning, saying a lack of funding for emergency relief and the complications created by the coronavirus scourge have “now pushed some of the world’s neediest populations closer to famine conditions”. It is a measure of the overwhelming crisis that the neediest are predominant in Africa.
The hunger emergency is now in designated Phase 4, specifically one step from famine. The pace of its spread is no less forbidding than the escalation of Covid-19.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, an estimated 21 million people are said to be living in crisis or what the UN report calls “worse levels of food insecurity”.
In South Sudan, which has suffered seven years of armed conflict, the people are largely inaccessible to aid agencies due to conflict and deliberate obstruction by “non-state arned groups”.
Overall, a stark message has been conveyed to the world over the weekend on the degree of starvation and deaths in Nigeria where more than ten million people ~ four of five ~ now require humanitarian assistance and protection. So too do the coronavirus-afflicted, and it is direly imperative for the world leaders to be riveted to both the killer virus and the lurking famine… with the potential to kill. It is a twin scourge for a part of the world.