By Andrew Kaggwa, NECJOGHA
Nairobi, Kenya – A regional food security organisation has warned that East Africa faces a food crisis due to the ongoing Covid16 pandemic.
“The rising number of corona virus (COVID-19) cases in the East Africa region are of unprecedented concern for human health and food security amid conflict, macroeconomic, weather, and desert locust shocks. The indirect impacts of COVID-19 through government interventions to control its spread, including social distancing, movement restrictions, and border closures, have driven a slowdown in economic and trade activity that has led to a sharp decline in household income and, in some cases, contributed to spikes in food prices. Household food access, especially in urban areas, will most likely decline in the near- and medium-term. Household food availability from mid- to late 2020 could also be affected if access to seeds and agricultural inputs,” says a release by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET)
The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on some 28 countries.
FEWSNET also note that the ongoing macroeconomic shocks and localized conflict and insecurity in Sudan, South Sudan, and Ethiopia continue to be the main driver of rising food prices and restricted household purchasing power.
“In March, sorghum prices were 200-350 percent above the five-year average in Sudan and South Sudan while the month-on-month price increase was 50 to 100 percent in Addis Ababa. Price spikes related to the impact of COVID-19 have also occurred in some markets in Ethiopia, South Sudan, Rwanda, and Uganda. Despite exemptions from movement restrictions to ensure continuity in the domestic and regional trade of food and essential non-food commodities, enhanced cargo screening procedures as well as temporary market closures, speculative trading, and panic buying have contributed to supply chain disruptions and price increases,” FEWSNET says.
As if Covid19 is not enough, FEWSNET says that the East Africa region also has to deal with the problem of the marauding desert locusts.
“The onset of the March to May seasonal rains in bimodal areas is facilitating timely land preparation and planting for the long-rains season, while also creating conducive conditions for desert locust breeding and development. Swarms are present and likely to spread in northwestern and lowland areas of southern, eastern, and central Ethiopia; northern and central Somalia; northern and central Kenya; northeastern Uganda; southeastern South Sudan; and Yemen,” FEWSNET notes.
FEWSNET further says that according to the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and national governments, locust surveillance and control measures remain a priority during the pandemic and are ongoing in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Uganda. However, movement and gathering restrictions and delays in pesticide freight shipments present challenges. Food security impacts due to crop and pasture losses from desert locust remain most likely in areas where control measures are limited. Areas of highest concern include insecure areas in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia and there is rising concern for damage to crops in southeastern South Sudan.