With COVID-19 infections surging but still to peak, cash-strapped governments struggling to cope with growing hunger, and the pandemic’s socioeconomic consequences set to outweigh its health impacts, WFP continues working to ensure help reaches the most at-risk.
Pending the results of national vulnerability assessments, our analysis indicates that as many as 52 million people in 12 operational countries will need food assistance in the next 12 months – nearly double a pre-COVID projection of 27.5 million.
The pandemic is aggravating deep-rooted problems underpinning protracted hunger in Southern Africa: high rates of population growth, poverty, inequality, malnutrition, HIV and environmental degradation.
It is also compounding the widespread devastation now routinely inflicted by climate change : recurring drought and frequent flooding.
Key sources of income for families, communities and governments have disappeared or diminished significantly. As joblessness has soared, remittances from migrant breadwinners in South Africa and elsewhere, vital for millions in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique and Lesotho, have slumped.
So, too, have the prices of exports some countries heavily depend on: oil for the Republic of Congo and Angola; copper for Zambia. The region’s crucial tourism industry has all but ground to a halt.
COVID-19 has intensified conflict – and hunger – in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and northern Mozambique. Elsewhere, it risks fuelling political tension and instability.
While better harvests this year (in South Africa, Zambia, Tanzania and Malawi) bring some relief, especially in rural areas, we are concerned that, going forward, smallholder farmers – many of them women – may not have enough access to markets, inputs or their land.
Beyond assistance to the traditionally vulnerable – subsistence farming families, refugees and IDPs, among others – WFP’s scale-up includes support to millions of now destitute people in urban areas.
This is in line with our push to capitalise on decades of experience globally to strengthen national social protection systems in a region where they have had limited coverage among the food insecure.
It is also consistent with our accelerating transition to preventive, anticipatory action: building resilience to shocks before they strike. We have a solid foundation in the food-assistance-for-assets programmes already helping to propel threatened communities to self-sufficiency.
In its capacity as global humanitarian logistics lead, WFP has set up a regional staging centre in Johannesburg, South Africa, for aid cargo and personnel – part of a worldwide network of dedicated COVID-19 air transport hubs.
Traffic through the hub has increased substantially since it became operational in June. Passenger flights now serve Lilongwe, Maputo and Addis Ababa, with Antananarivo, Windhoek and Luanda to be added soon. Freight volumes are rising too.
While virus-induced port and border closures have somewhat slowed the movement of humanitarian freight and workers into and around southern Africa, as have lengthier quality controls and document processing, WFP continues to be able to receive and dispatch food and other essentials relatively freely thanks to the support of SADC and its governments.
This must continue, given that most countries in the region are heavily dependent on food imports, many are land-locked (Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Lesotho and Eswatini) and WFP has limited in-country stocks to sustain key operations – notably those in DRC, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
Anticipating COVID-related supply chain disruptions, WFP has worked since the outset of the crisis to procure and pre-position up to three months of food to meet the increased needs of especially vulnerable communities. Thanks in part to the better harvests in some countries, much of the planned 70,000 tonnes of commodities has been sourced and delivered.
The more pronounced hunger the pandemic and its socioeconomic impacts are set to inflict presage a significant surge in WFP funding needs. Our unmet requirement for the next six months (July-December) for all operations amounts to US$881 million.
Source: World Food Programme