The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened an already dire food security situation in Africa, a top official of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said.
Abebe Haile-Gabriel, FAO’s Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa (RAF) told Xinhua that the restrictions to contain the pandemic induced the shortage in food distribution, shortage in inputs for planting, and postharvest losses, which have deepened the food security gaps on the continent.
“Perishable items such as vegetables, fruits, and fish suffered postharvest losses. More than 256 million people were hungry even before the COVID-19 situation, and the pandemic has complicated the matter,” Haile-Gabriel said.
“In the first few months, everybody focused only on the public health aspect of the pandemic without considering that what is a public health crisis could transform itself into a food security crisis. So everybody was caught by surprise,” He added.
He noted food insecurity was a big issue in Africa, which was caused by the climate extremes of drought and floods, as well as trans-boundary diseases and plant pests.
“Projections are that if the situation is allowed to fester, both food security and nutrition are going to be seriously impacted negatively in the future due to the COVID-19,” said the official.
The measures to address the challenge, Haile-Gabriel said, should look at the food systems, not just one aspect of agriculture, but the entire value chain in an integrated manner.
He called for a comprehensively coherent and inclusive approach, using the opportunity of innovation of digitization, e-commerce, and advanced agricultural technologies to ensure abundant production, safe storage, and efficient processing, marketing, and distribution, to reach everyone in the right quality and quantity.
Another way to deal with the situation on the continent, the official said, should be through global solidarity to move food from places of oversupply to areas of inadequate supply.
Data shows that globally, there is more than enough food for everybody at the moment. But the disadvantaged, including vulnerable countries, women, children, those who lack the means, and those who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, suffer shortage, he said.
“We, therefore, need international solidarity and collaboration to move what is available somewhere easily to the underserved,” he added.
The Rome-based FAO celebrated its 75th Anniversary on Friday under the theme, Grow, Nourish, Sustain Together: Our Actions are our Future.
Haile-Gabriel urged African leaders to put in the needed efforts to growing the sector, not just crops, but the entire value chain in an environmentally-friendly manner to ensure sustainable food security.