The world bank has announced the approval of a $2.3 billion program to help some countries in East and Southern Africa to curb looming severe food shortages. At the first, Madagascar and Ethiopia will be its beneficiaries. Second phase beneficiaries include nine countries from Southern Africa. The lender estimates that about 66.4 million people in the regions may experience food crises, food emergencies, or famine by July 2022.
Hafez Ghanem, World Bank Vice President for Eastern and Southern Africa, noted this as “the first regional and multi-sectoral operation focusing on reducing the number of food-insecure people in Eastern and Southern Africa by increasing the resilience of food systems and preparedness to combat rising food insecurity.”
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Climate change threatens food security
In the past, political instability, currency volatility and regional conflict triggered economic slump-translating to food shortages. But many more African countries started to experience food scarcity following the 2020 COVID-19 lockdowns. More so, the Russian-Ukraine war is making food import difficult. East and Southern African regions have experienced extreme climate conditions linked to the Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD). This has triggered flash floods, severe droughts, and pest outbreaks.
Boutheina Guermazi noted that while climate-induced shocks to the food system used to occur once every ten years (on average), they now occur every 2.5 years. “This is too frequent for countries, regions, or farms to sufficiently recover between the shocks, and therefore investing in food systems resilience is key to allowing the region to act on food systems challenges in more cooperative and effective ways,” she said. Guermazi is World Bank Director of Regional Integration Africa, the Middle East and North Africa.