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West Africa: Extreme poverty increases by nearly 3 percent in West Africa due to Covid-19

The extreme poverty rate in West Africa increased by almost three percent in 2020, according to a UN-backed report. This is another result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The percentage of people living on less than $1.90 per day has risen from 2.3% last year to 2.9% in 2021. While the debt burden of countries increased due to slow economic recovery, shrinking fiscal spaces, and weak resource mobilization, it also rose.

Over 25 million people in the region struggle to meet their basic food requirements.

Gains are extinguished
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) published the study in partnership with the West Africa Sub-Regional Office for UN Economic Commission for Africa and the World Food Programme ( WFP).

Sekou Sangare, ECOWAS’ Commissioner for Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources, stated that the pandemic had primarily negated the benefits of fighting malnutrition and food insecurity.

He stated that even though we are pleased with the government’s response to the mitigation measures they took, we still have to be concerned about the effects of the economic and health crisis. They are likely to continue disrupting our food systems for a long while compromising the access to food for many people, due to multiple factors.

This report discusses the impact of measures to prevent coronavirus from spreading, including border closures, movement restrictions, and disruption of the supply chain.

Forcibly to sell
These measures had an effect on income-generating activities and food prices in markets. The most affected were small traders, street vendors, and casual workers.

The West African economy is in a worsening state, which has negatively impacted food security and nutrition.

Over 25 million people cannot meet their basic food requirements, an increase of nearly 35% compared to 2020. To get enough food, people have had to sell their homes and livelihoods.

The worst affected areas are the Lake Chad Basin, Sahel, and Liptako-Gourma regions, which border Burkina Faso and Mali, respectively.

Strengthen social protection
The report is hoped to encourage private and public responses to the pandemic’s adverse effects on West African people.

Chris Nikoi (WFP’s Regional Director West Africa) stressed the importance of taking immediate and coordinated action.

“This report clearly shows the urgent need for Governments and partners to deliberately increase investments to strengthen and increase social protection programs, social safety-nets such as school meals, and other livelihoods-enhancing programs with particular emphasis on women and youth,” he said.

Ngone Diop (Director of the ECA’s Sub-Regional Office) pointed out one of the strengths of the partnership: the ability to conduct an online survey that mobilized almost 8,000 respondents.

She also stated that “based in our analyses upon primary, first-hand information from households directly affected by the crisis in health makes it possible for us to offer decision-makers at both the national and regional levels relevant and better-targeted policies options.”

Responding to your needs
ECOWAS and its partner countries have taken a variety of economic and financial measures since the outbreak of the pandemic, which occurred almost three years ago.

With support from WFP, ECOWAS member states have expanded social protection programs and food distributions for the most vulnerable people.

They support 1.4 million people in Mali and Niger and help to strengthen national social security systems.

“WFP is committed to enhancing coordination among countries and facilitating the exchange of experience, with the goal to ensure that social protection systems in the region support nutrition and food security and are resilient to shocks,” stated Mr. Nikoi.