Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas)has warned that the impact of COVID-19 combined with the lean season and conflict will increase the number of people at risk of food insecurity and malnutrition.

According to Ecowas, the number of people at risk of food insecurity and malnutrition from 17 million to 50 million people between June and August 2020.

“As Ramadan begins, eight regional and international organisations warn of the impact of the coronavirus combined with the lean season and conflict and insecurity, which will stretch the West Africa population in a period of fasting and sharing for some.

“Food workers are struggling to continue their activities and see their livelihoods threatened. Measures must be taken to protect the most vulnerable and ensure food production so that hunger and malnutrition are no longer a daily threat,” said Ecowas in a statement

According to the organisation, in the region’s main cities as well as in rural areas, despite the governments’ efforts, many communities still faced difficulties in accessing food markets, with prices increasing quickly and many basic commodities becoming scarce. These are the consequences of restrictive measures put in place, confinement or curfews, border closures and insecurity in certain areas.

In Burkina Faso, Amadou Hamadoun Dicko, the president of the Association for the Promotion of Livestock in the Sahel and Savannah, said: “In a few days the 100kg bag of millet has gone from 16,000 to 19,000 CFA (R504.91 to R599.58) and a litre of cooking oil has almost doubled. Likewise, for breeders, the price of a bag of cotton cake to feed their animals has increased. With the virus, in addition to insecurity, I wonder how Ramadan will be lived this year.”

“While the agricultural season is also beginning, producers and farmers are already severely affected economically by the crisis and have difficulties in accessing quality seeds and fertilisers. Thirty point five percent of West Africa’s economy is devoted to agriculture, which is the largest source of income and livelihood for 70 to 80% of the population, mainly women who are on the front line,” said Ecowas.

The organisation added that pastoralist communities have already been hit hard by the impacts of climate change and insecurity. Communities can no longer ensure the transhumance of livestock, which has been made impossible by the closure of regions or borders and risks increasing conflicts between herders and farmers.

“We, the leaders of peasant organisations and international NGOs, call on all governments to control prices, to ensure the supply of food from family farms and the transport of goods across borders, but also to put in place social safety nets to help the most vulnerable.

“In this global crisis, regional and international solidarity is also required and the support of donors to West African states, farmers’ organisations and civil society is urgently needed, to help them face this crisis in a fragile regional context.”