BY EPHREM ANDARAGCHEW
ADDIS ABABA– Since its outbreak some two years ago, the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has caused over 30-40 million Africans to fall into hunger thereby raising the total starved population to 270-280 million, the Africa Union (AU) disclosed.
Briefing journalists yesterday, African Union Agriculture, Rural Development and Sustainable Environment Commissioner Josepha Sacko said that the COVID-19 pandemic has immensely disrupted Africa’s food systems. The pandemic has revealed the fragility and vulnerability of African food systems that were adversely hit by climatic shocks, pests, and armyworm and desert locusts during the past several years.
The commissioner further noted that a compound effect of these shocks affected Africa’s food systems in reduced production and trade and leading to food shortages and higher food prices. The rural poor, low-income earners in urban areas and displaced populations are particularly vulnerable. “In order to address the food system problems, it is, therefore, important to take bold actions to make sure that Africa not only recovers from the impact of the COVID-19, but also builds sustainable and resilient systems that will reduce vulnerability.”
It is also significant to echo Africa’s common position in the world forums and AU member states should design, fund, and implement programs that will transform the continent’s food system and ensure food security and nutrition. Similarly, equal consideration needs to be given to create jobs, reduce poverty, increase trade in agricultural goods and services and increase the resilience of livelihoods and production systems, she elaborated.
Sacko further noted that AU members expected to develop and implement national agriculture investment plans, opening space for the active participation of the private sector, farmer organizations and civil society. Also, development partners should galvanize partnership with governments to ensure that programs that are designed, funded and implemented will meet the aspirations and needs of the people.
African Union Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development Commissioner Samate Cessouma Minata said for her part that AU member countries should enhance their capacity to cope with the negative impact of COVID-19 and their commitment to execute the African Medical Agency. “Apart from receiving COVID-19 vaccination from donor countries and organizations, currently, some African countries are trying to produce vaccination, hence it is significant to encourage and support these nations.”
AU member states must also work together to ensure food and nutrition security by mitigating and adapting the impact of climate change, increasing crop production, creating cross-sectorial collaboration, and so on. It is key to work on infrastructural problems, promoting industrialization, substituting imported food items, empowering women, improving water usage and management systems, she remarked.
The February 4/2022