WFP: Hunger could double in East Africa and the Horn in months as coronavirus spreads

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Internally displaced families receive food items from Nigeria's Victims Support Fund, as the authorities struggle to contain the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Abuja, Nigeria April 14, 2020. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde
Food distribution in Pieri, South Sudan, where WFP is assisting 29,000 people, of whom 6,600 are children under five. WFP/Gabriela Vivacqua

The population of hungry citizens in east and horn of African region could double in the next three months as COVID-19 pandemic combined with climatic shocks impact negatively on food production systems, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said in a report released in Nairobi on Tuesday.

According to the WFP report titled “impact of COVID-19 on supply chains, regional trade, markets and food security in East Africa”, an estimated 34 to 43 million people up from 20 million in the region are at risk of hunger and malnutrition amid socio-economic disruptions triggered by the viral respiratory disease.

“Without a concerted effort to contain the evolving livelihood and food security crisis, it is likely that COVID-19 pandemic could very well turn into a hunger pandemic, “said the report.

The UN agency said that households in urban informal settlements and refugees are likely to bear the brunt of food shortage thanks to disruptions to agricultural value chains triggered by the disease.

Brenda Behan, WFP regional director said that COVID-19 has already disrupted livelihoods of communities across the greater horn of the African region, and could escalate deaths linked to poverty, hunger and malnutrition.

“More people are expected to die from the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 than the virus itself. And refugees and the urban poor across the region are at greatest risk,” said Behan.

The WFP report says that countries in East and the Horn of Africa should brace for food-deficit linked to anti-COVID-19 containment measures like restricted movements as well as price hikes on key staples like maize, wheat and rice.

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