The latest data from the March 2024 Cadre Harmonise food security analysis by the Permanent Inter-State Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS) reveals a concerning trend in West and Central Africa. Nearly 55 million people, spanning countries such as Nigeria, Niger, Senegal, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chad, and Togo, are anticipated to face challenges in feeding themselves during the June-August 2024 lean season. This figure marks a four-million increase compared to the previous forecast in November 2023 and underscores a fourfold surge over the past five years.

Particularly alarming is the situation in conflict-affected northern Mali, where an estimated 2,600 people are at risk of experiencing catastrophic hunger. Beyond conflicts, economic hurdles such as currency devaluations, soaring inflation, stagnating production, and trade barriers have exacerbated the food crisis, impacting ordinary citizens across the region. Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Mali are among the worst-affected nations, according to the report.

Prices of staple grains continue to soar across the region, driven by factors including currency inflation, fuel and transport costs, ECOWAS sanctions, and restrictions on agro-pastoral product flows. This inflationary pressure has led to significant challenges in meeting the population’s food needs, exacerbating existing fiscal constraints and macroeconomic challenges.

Cereal production for the 2023-2024 agricultural season shows a deficit of 12 million tons, while the per capita availability of cereals has decreased by two percent compared to the previous season. Urgent action is needed to address these pressing challenges and prevent the situation from escalating further.

In response to the growing needs, key organizations such as FAO, UNICEF, and WFP are calling for sustainable solutions to bolster food security, enhance agricultural productivity, and mitigate the adverse effects of economic volatility. Collaboration between governments, international organizations, civil society, and the private sector is essential to ensure the fundamental human right to food is upheld for all individuals in the region.

Efforts are underway to expand national social protection programs in countries like Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, and Niger, with support from UNICEF and WFP. Additionally, joint initiatives by FAO, IFAD, and WFP aim to increase productivity, availability, and access to nutritious food through resilience-building programs across the Sahel.

Dr. Robert Guei, FAO Sub-Regional Coordinator for West Africa and the Sahel, emphasizes the importance of promoting policies that encourage the diversification of agricultural production and the processing of local foods. These efforts are crucial not only for ensuring healthy diets but also for protecting biodiversity, mitigating the effects of climate change, and countering high food prices to safeguard the livelihoods of affected populations.

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