By Chris Bishop.
There are fears that the scourge COVID-19 virus could leave hunger as well as death and sickness in its wake.
The World Food Programme fears that the lockdowns across Africa could paralyse farms and threaten the production of food for hungry millions. It feeds 4.1 million Zimbabweans alone in a massive project that helps an estimated 45 million hungry people across sub-Saharan Africa – that is more than the populations of Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi combined. As the lockdowns affect ports and movement, the future holds fears for those delivering the food.
“Most of the food in Africa is produced by small farmers, most of them women. For that to happen we need to make sure seeds are delivered to farms and planted, transport needs to stay on the move across the country and markets where farmer can buy supplies s can stay open,” says Lola Castro WFP’s Regional Director for Southern Africa.
“We really need to maintain our normal distribution maybe in the future especially on the small holder farmers who must have access to markets. We may see more people needing food if the disease gets worse.”
Castro warned in a webcast, arranged by the World Health Organisation, that undernourished people and those with HIV-Aids were prone to COVID-19. She said that the WFP was asking for $450 million to buy up the crop currently being harvested to keep supply up and the region’s hungry fed.
“Food security in rural and urban populations needed to be looked at differently …We have to make sure your most vulnerable are supported like people with HIV-Aids .Governments are putting measures for that.” says Castro.
Another problem for food security is the fact that lockdown has closed down tens of thousands of schools from Lilongwe to Lagos. For many hungry school children in Africa, school is only place they can be sure of a hot meal.
“Many countries have closed schools and hundreds of millions of children are not going to school,” says Matshidiso Moete, the regional director for Africa for the World Health Organisation.
Governments across Africa are going to have to make some very tough decisions when considering how long to keep the lockdown in place.