Extreme poverty in Western Africa increased by nearly three per cent with the proportion of people in the region living with less than $1.90 a day increased from 2.3 per cent in 2020 to 2.9 per cent in 2021.
This is the finding of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).
The report obtained from WFP’s website also gathered that the debt burdens of countries in the region have also increased in the context of slow economic recovery, shrinking fiscal space and weak resource mobilisation.
The report further stressed that the border closures, movement restrictions, and the disruption of supply chains have disrupted income-generating activities and exacerbated food price increases in the markets, adding that the most affected are people who rely on unstable income sources such as small traders, street vendors and casual workers.
The report added that the deteriorating economic situation has adversely affected the food security and nutrition situation of women, men, and children where more than 25 million people in West Africa are unable to meet their basic food needs in the region, an increase of 34 per cent compared to 2020.
“The situation is most severe in conflict-affected areas such as the Lake Chad Basin, Liptako-Gourma and the Sahel region, forcing people to sell their assets and livelihoods to meet their food needs.
The Coronavirus health crisis has particularly annihilated the benefits gained by ECOWAS and its Member States in the fight against food insecurity and malnutrition” said, ECOWAS Commissioner for Agriculture, Environment and Water resources,” Sekou Sangare.
“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 multiples factors,” he added.
The publication of the report comes in a context marked by a fragile regional economy that is not dynamic enough to allow families to regain their pre-crisis social and economic well-being.
The results of this study will enable public and private actors to provide appropriate and resolute responses to the negative impact of Covid-19 on the lives of people in West Africa.
“The socio-economic impacts of Covid-19 calls for immediate and concerted actions to further strengthen people’s resilience and capacity to withstand shocks” said, WFP’s Regional Director for West Africa,” Chris Nikoi.
“This report clearly shows the urgent need for Governments and partners to deliberately increase investments to strengthen and increase social protection programs, social safety-nets such as school meals, and other livelihoods-enhancing programs with particular emphasis on women and youth.”
The Director of the UNECA’s West Africa Sub-Regional Office, Ngone Diop, stressed that one of the strengths of the ECOWAS-WFP-ECA partnership was to “carry out an online survey, which has mobilised nearly 8,000 survey respondents in just two editions.”
Moreover, Diop said “basing our analyses on primary, first-hand data from households directly impacted by the health crisis makes it possible to offer decision-makers at the regional and national levels with relevant and better-targeted policy options.”