by Carly Petesh
DAKAR, Senegal ( Associated Press) — West Africa is facing its worst food crisis in a decade due to escalating conflicts, droughts, floods and war in Ukraine, nearly a dozen international organizations said in a report on Tuesday.
The number of West Africans in need of emergency food aid has increased from 7 million in 2015 to 27 million this year in countries including Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad, Mali and Nigeria, where thousands have also been displaced by Islamic extremist violence. The report said.
The groups warned that the number could rise to 38 million by June if action is not taken soon to help people in the Sahel, a broad region south of the Sahara desert.
“Grain production in some parts of the Sahel has dropped by about a third compared to last year. The family food supply is running out. Droughts, floods, conflict and the economic impacts of COVID-19 have forced millions of people off their land, according to Assalma Davalak Sidi, Oxfam’s regional director for West and Central Africa.
Children are suffering deeply, with the United Nations estimating that around 6.3 million children aged 5 and under will be severely malnourished this year. 11 international organizations said young girls would also bear the brunt of the problem, being forced into early marriage or facing gender-based violence as food became scarce.
Drought and poor rainfall distribution have depleted food sources in many communities in the central Sahel region, the report said. Food prices in West Africa have risen by as much as 30 percent.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, trade disruptions caused by the war in Ukraine have led to a rise in global prices. It said wheat availability would also be greatly affected in the six West African countries that import at least 30% of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine.
The crisis in Europe has resulted in cutting funding for aid to Africa and the continent needs $4 billion to provide adequate aid, the report said.
“Ukraine is receiving the right level of solidarity and care, this level should be the standard for responding to all crises, everywhere,” said Alima’s director-general, Maumouni Kinda.
The appeal comes ahead of a conference on the Sahel on Wednesday, which Oxfam’s Sidi said will be “a unique opportunity to mobilize the necessary emergency food and nutrition support and prove that people’s lives in Africa are no less than those in Europe.” “