West Africa: Extreme poverty rises nearly 3 percent due to COVID-19

Extreme poverty in West Africa rose by nearly three percent in 2020, another fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, a UN-backed report launched on Thursday that looks at the socio-impact of the crisis has revealed.

The proportion of people living on less than $1.90 a day jumped from 2.3 percent last year to 2.9 percent in 2021, while the debt burden of countries increased amid slow economic recovery, shrinking fiscal space, and weak resource mobilization.

More than 25 million across the region are struggling to meet their basic food needs.

Gains annihilated
The study was published by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in partnership with the West Africa Sub-Regional Office for the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

Sekou Sangare, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources, said the pandemic has, in particular, annihilated benefits gained in fighting food insecurity and malnutrition.

“Even if we are happy with the governments’ response through the mitigation actions they have taken, we have to worry about the residual effects of the health and economic crisis as they are likely to continue disturbing our food systems for a long time while compromising populations access to food, due to multiple factors,” he said.

The report highlights the effects of measures aimed at preventing coronavirus spread, such as border closures, movement restrictions, and disruption of supply chains.

Forced to sell
These measures had an impact on income-generating activities, and on food prices in markets, with small traders, street vendors, and casual workers most affected.

The deteriorating economic situation has adversely affected food security and nutrition in West Africa.

More than 25 million people are unable to meet their basic food needs, a nearly 35 percent increase compared to 2020. People have been forced to sell their assets and livelihoods in order to get enough to eat.

The situation is most severe in those areas affected by conflict, such as the Lake Chad Basin region, the Sahel, and the Liptako-Gourma region, which borders Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger.

Source: UN News