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Pandemic Likely to Worsen West Africa’s Looming Mass Hunger, WFP Warns  

FILE - Children of around 6,000 ethnic Fulanis who have been displaced by attacks, gather in a makeshift camp for the displaced in Youba in Yatenga province in Burkina Faso, April 20, 2020.

A recent U.N. assessment estimates more than 21 million people across West Africa will be short of food during the coming lean season between June and August when food stocks are at their lowest. U.N. officials report they will need urgent assistance from the international community to survive.

Armed conflict, widespread displacement and climate change are pushing millions of people across West Africa, including the volatile Sahel region into hunger. Added to this toxic mix is COVID-19.

The World Food Program warns the pandemic is likely to more than double the number of people facing hunger by the end of the year to 43 million. It says the urban poor, who live hand-to-mouth, are most at risk. It explains people in cities depend on markets for food, and they have little ability to store and save food or money.

WFP spokeswoman, Elizabeth Byrs says $74 million is urgently needed to provide crucial aid for the next six months in West Africa. She says the needs are likely to increase as the impact of COVID-19 becomes clearer.

“If the response is inadequate, it would put the future well-being of millions of people in the region at stake, particularly women and young children, and could spell civil unrest in parts of a region already challenged by insecurity and violent extremism,” she said.

Byrs says the WFP fears an estimated 12 million children could be acutely malnourished during the June to August lean season, up from 8.2 million in the same period last year.

She says WFP is planning to pre-position a six-month supply of food stocks in the region. She says this will ensure enough life-saving assistance is available in case COVID-19 travel restrictions lead to possible disruptions to supply chains.