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Aid agencies call for urgent action to prevent famine in hunger hotspots

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World Food Programme (WFP) food distribution in Kaya, Burkina Faso. WFP/Mahamady Ouedraogo

People in four food insecurity “hotspots” inside Burkina Faso, northeastern Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen, need help urgently to avoid sliding into famine, UN humanitarians said on Friday.

“We are concerned that they may be facing an elevated risk of famine if the situation would further deteriorate over the coming months”, said Claudia Ah Poe, senior food security adviser at the World Food Programme (WFP), speaking at a press conference at UN Geneva. 

In a joint alert with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), WFP also warned that 16 other countries also face a “major (food) emergency – or series of emergencies” in the next three to six months. 

The drivers of these humanitarian crises include long-running conflict and a lack of humanitarian access to communities in need; climate extremes and the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, they said in a new report on food insecurity hotspots. 

At-risk nations

At-risk nations include Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo – where 22 million people are acutely food insecure, the highest number ever registered for a single country – Ethiopia, Haiti and Venezuela.

“These countries already had significant acute food insecurity levels in 2020…and are now facing a risk of a further rapid deterioration over the next months”, said WFP’s Ah Poe.
Sahel shocks

Underscoring the level of need in the three African countries found to be among the four most at risk of famine, WFP spokesperson Tomson Phiri highlighted how people’s dire situation was linked to an insurgency in northern Burkina Faso and northeastern Nigeria.

Years of conflict had also created chronic vulnerability in South Sudan, made worse by this year’s catastrophic flooding Mr. Phiri added. “People have lost assets, people have lost their capability to cope with any shocks. We had …unprecedented floods this year; floodwaters were submerging whole towns, people are struggling, the harvest that was just about to come in.” 

Pandemic fallout

Further data from March to September has also shown that while in many countries COVID-19-related restrictions were progressively lifted, allowing economic activity to resume, food insecurity has worsened in 27 countries, with up to 104.6 million people in need.

In 2019, the number of people facing similar levels of food insecurity in these 27 countries was 97.6 million, according to WFP.

“In those 27 countries, the number of people that are already facing acute food insecurity are (sic) more than 100 million already. Analysis obviously is continuously ongoing so we except this number to increase much more,” said WFP’s Ah Poe. “And earlier on this year, we… had estimated in the countries where we are operating – which is around 80 countries – an additional 121 million people would be at risk of falling into food insecurity.”

Somalia lessons

Speaking via video link from Rome, FAO senior food crises analyst, Luca Russo, recalled that the main objective of the alert was to avert a humanitarian catastrophe by identifying the many factors that contribute to famine, and which specific actions would help vulnerable communities most.

In 2011, famine was declared in southern Somalia in July, but most people had already died by May, he said.

“The moment you declare a famine it is already too late to act, in the sense that we saw this in the past, with Somalia when the famine was declared, already 260,000 people had died…so we want to raise an early warning before the famine occurs.”

Echoing that message, FAO’s Director of Emergencies and Resilience, Dominique Burgeon, called for urgent action from the international community.

“We are deeply concerned about the combined impact of several crises which are eroding people’s ability to produce and access food, leaving them more and more at risk of the most extreme hunger”, he said. “We need access to these populations to ensure they have food and the means to produce food and improve their livelihoods to prevent a worst-case scenario.”

Famine risk ‘in all four parts of the world’

WFP Director of Emergencies Margot van der Velden, also cautioned that the world is at a “catastrophic turning point”, with the risk of famine in four different parts of the world at the same time. “When we declare a famine, it means many lives have already been lost. If we wait to find that out for sure, people are already dead,” she said.

Famine is defined as the most severe type of hunger, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) measure, which humanitarians use to gauge food security levels on a scale of one to five.

A declaration of famine – IPC 5 – only refers to areas where “at least one in five households has or is most likely to have an extreme deprivation of food”, as per the IPC definition, and where “significant mortality, directly attributable to outright starvation or to the interaction of malnutrition and disease, is occurring or will be occurring”.

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Africa Today

Climate Change Could Further Impact Africa’s Recovery

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The World Bank’s new Groundswell Africa reports, released today ahead of the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 26), find that the continent will be hit the hardest by climate change, with up to 86 million Africans migrating within their own countries by 2050.

The data on countries in West Africa and the Lake Victoria Basin show that climate migration hot spots could emerge as early as 2030, and highlight that without concrete climate and development action, West Africa could see as many as 32 million people forced to move within their own countries by 2050. In Lake Victoria Basin countries, the number could reach a high of 38.5 million.

From pastoralists travelling the Sahel to fishermen braving the seas, the story of West Africa is a story of climate migrants. As countries are experiencing rises in temperatures, erratic rainfall, flooding, and coastal erosion, Africans will face unprecedented challenges in the coming years,” says Ousmane Diagana, World Bank Vice President for Western and Central Africa. “This series of reports identifies priorities for climate action that can help countries move towards a green, resilient and inclusive development and generate opportunities for all African people.”

Slow-onset climate change impacts, like water scarcity, lower crop and ecosystem productivity, sea level rise, and storm surge will increasingly cause people to migrate. Some places will become less livable because of heat stress, extreme events, and land loss while other areas may become more attractive as consequence of climate-induced changes, like increased rainfall. Unattended, these shifts will not only lead to climate-induced migration, potentially deepening existing vulnerabilities and leading to increased poverty, fragility, conflict, and violence

The authors highlight that people’s mobility will be influenced by how slow onset of climate impacts will interact with population dynamics and the socio-economic contexts within countries. However, efforts to support green, inclusive, and resilient development, could reduce the scale of climate migration by 30% in the Lake Victoria region and as much as 60% in West Africa.

Investments in resilience and adaptation can promote green industries, and when paired with investments in health, education, the digital economy, innovation, and sustainable infrastructure, they also have tremendous potential to create climate-smart jobs and boost economic growth,” asserts Hafez Ghanem, World Bank Vice President for Eastern and Southern Africa. As part of this, a focus on women’s empowerment is critical to improve human capital and to reap the demographic dividend—significant aspects of building climate resilience in the years to come.”

The scale and trajectory of climate-induced migration across Africa will require countries to take bold, transformative actions:

Net-zero targets: the global community has the responsibility to cut greenhouse gas emissions to reduce the scale and reach of climate impacts.

Locality and context matter: countries will need to embed internal climate migration in far-sighted green, resilient, and inclusive development planning across Africa.

Data: investing in research and diagnostic tools is key to better understand the drivers of internal climate migration for well-targeted policies.

Focus on people: invest in human capital to engage people in productive and sustainable climate smart jobs.

The Groundswell Africa series is a sequel to the 2018 Groundswell report and complements the recently released Groundswell II report, providing in-depth analysis on potential scale and spread of internal climate migration in West African and the Lake Victoria Basin, with country level analysis from Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda to better inform policy dialogue and action.

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Africa Today

World Bank to support reconstruction plan for Cabo Delgado in Mozambique

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Image source: Wikipedia

The World Bank will provide US$100 million (€86 million) to support the Mozambican government in the reconstruction plan for Cabo Delgado, a province affected by incursions by armed groups since 2017, an official source announced Monday.

“With the recently reconquered areas, we have realised that there are many people who want to return to their areas of origin. But they cannot return without the basic conditions being in place. As a result, we have an additional 100 million dollars for support,” said Idah Pswarayi-Riddihough, World Bank Country Director for Mozambique.

She was speaking to the media, moments after a meeting between the Mozambican prime minister, Carlos Agostinho do Rosário, and heads of diplomatic missions to discuss the Cabo Delgado Reconstruction Plan.

According to her, the new World Bank support comes on top of a first donation (also totalling US$100 million), announced in April and which was earmarked for the Northern Integrated Development Agency (ADIN), which is promoting social and economic projects for youth inclusion across northern Mozambique.

In the new donation, which is expected to be disbursed in January, the World Bank wants the money to be invested in the reconquered areas in the north of the province, and psychosocial support, reconstruction of public buildings and restoration of basic services are among the priorities.

“The idea is to give the affected people a decent place to live after the traumas they have suffered,” she said.

The Reconstruction Plan for Cabo Delgado, approved in September by the Mozambican government, is budgeted at US$300 million (258 million euros), of which almost US$200 million (172 million euros) is earmarked for the implementation of short-term actions, which include restoring public administration, health units, schools, energy, water supply, amongst other aspects.

According to the deputy minister of Industry and Trade, Ludovina Bernardo, the priority of the executive is to ensure a gradual and safe return of the inhabitants to the reconquered areas, at the same time as basic conditions are created.

“We want to make interventions on the ground, but safeguarding security. Our forces are on the ground and as soon as they ensure that the return of families to their areas of origin is possible, the process will begin”, he said, pointing, as an example, to the return of families from Palma, which has already begun.

The United Nations resident representative in Mozambique, Myrta Kaulard, also gave assurances that the organisation would continue to support the Mozambican government in the process, highlighting the importance of the “classic interventions” of the entity in cases of humanitarian crises.

“I would like to remind you that on the humanitarian side, international partners have contributed, in the year 2021 alone, a total of 160 million dollars (137 million euros). It is important to continue with this humanitarian support, while promoting reconstruction,” she stressed and highlighted the importance of creating a working group among international partners to combine actions and broaden appeals in the face of the humanitarian crisis in Northern Mozambique.

Cabo Delgado province is rich in natural gas but has been terrorised since 2017 by armed rebels, with some attacks claimed by the extremist group Islamic State.

The conflict has led to more than 3,100 deaths, according to the ACLED conflict registration project, and more than 824,000 displaced people, according to updates from Mozambican authorities.

Since July, an offensive by government troops with support from Rwanda, later joined by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), allowed for an increase in security, recovering several areas where there was rebel presence, including the town of Mocímboa da Praia, which had been occupied since August 2020.

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Africa Today

Nigeria becomes the first country in Africa to roll out Digital Currency

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The Central Bank of Nigeria joined a growing list of emerging markets betting on digital money to cut transaction costs and boost participation in the formal financial system.

“Nigeria has become the first country in Africa, and one of the first in the world to introduce a digital currency to her citizens,” President Muhammadu Buhari said in televised speech at the launch in Abuja, the capital. “The adoption of the central bank digital currency and its underlying technology, called blockchain, can increase Nigeria’s gross domestic product by $29 billion over the next 10 years.”

The International Monetary Fund projects GDP for Africa’s largest economy to be $480 billion in 2021.

The issuance of the digital currency, called the eNaira, comes after the central bank earlier in February outlawed banks and financial institutions from transacting or operating in cryptocurrencies as they posed a threat to the financial system.

Since the launch of the eNaira platform, it’s received more than 2.5 million daily visits, with 33 banks integrated on the platform, 500 million c ($1.2 million) successfully minted and more than 2,000 customers onboarded, central bank Governor Godwin Emefiele said at the launch.

Central bank digital currencies, or CBDCs, are national currency — unlike their crypto counterparts, such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, which are prized, in part, because they are not tied to fiat currency. The eNaira will complement the physical naira, which has weakened 5.6% this year despite the central bank’s efforts to stabilize the currency.

“The eNaira and the physical naira will have the same value and will always exchange at one naira to one eNaira,” Emefiele said.

The digital currency is expected to boost cross-border trade and financial inclusion, make transactions more efficient as well as improve monetary policy, according to the central bank.

“Alongside digital innovations, CBDCs can foster economic growth through better economic activities, increase remittances, improve financial inclusion and make monetary policy more effective,” Buhari said. Digital money can also “help move many more people and businesses from the informal into the formal sector, thereby increasing the tax base of the country,” he said.

The Central Bank of Nigeria in August selected Bitt Inc. as a technical partner to help create the currency that was initially due to be introduced on Oct. 1.

Nigeria joins the Bahamas and the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank in being among the first jurisdictions in the world to roll out national digital currencies. China launched a pilot version of its “digital renminbi” earlier this year. In Africa, nations from Ghana to South Africa are testing digital forms of their legal tender to allow for faster and cheaper money transactions, without losing control over their monetary systems.

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