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Int’l agencies, stakeholders discuss conflict, COVID-19, hunger crises in W’Africa

International and multilateral agencies yesterday, launched the annual forum of intergovernmental organisations from West Africa, to examine and address the impact of emerging risks and challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and the unfolding crisis in Ukraine.

The forum was launched in Dakar, Senegal, by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in partnership with the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS), the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), and the Senegalese Ministry of Economy, Plan and Cooperation.

Through this forum, the United Nations will reinforce their partnership with ECOWAS and intergovernmental organisations to ensure all parties work together in a coordinated manner that is aligned with both the strategic priorities of sub-regional organization as well as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

During the two-day forum which ends today, participants will address sustainable development issues, identify and discuss policy directions and actions needed to strengthen the resilience and recovery of West African economies.

They will also lay the groundwork for policy responses to emerging development challenges in West Africa, including growing levels of food insecurity, the climate challenge, extreme violence, and the breakdown of social cohesion.

The socioeconomic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and the ripple effect of the conflict in Ukraine have led to increased costs of food, fuel, and agricultural inputs – particularly fertilizer – in the region according to the joint studies conducted by ECOWAS, UNECA, FAO and WFP.

Participants will also lay the groundwork for policy responses to emerging development challenges in West Africa, including growing levels of food insecurity, the climate challenge, extreme violence, and the breakdown of social cohesion.

These studies revealed that West African countries are highly dependent on food imports – with the region spending $4.5 billion in 2019 on cereal imports. Dependence on wheat imports is particularly acute in Mali, Senegal, Guinea, and Benin, where just over half of the wheat consumed comes from Russia.

This situation poses a threat to the region due to the unprecedented rise in food prices witnessed in February-March 2022, with the FAO Food Price Index reaching its highest level on record in March 2022.

The increased cost of importing agricultural inputs for West African countries – including fertilizer – has a negative impact on food production in the region and particularly in the Sahelian zone.

These uncertainties could exacerbate food insecurity in a region already coping with the highest number of food insecure people during the post-harvest season since the Cadre Harmonisé food security assessments were introduced in 2014.

During the ongoing June-August lean season, 43 million women, men and children are expected to face food insecurity – 23% last year.

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