19 countries covered by WFP West Africa region
57.6 million people estimated to be food insecure by the end of 2020
11 million children aged 6-59 months estimated to be acutely malnourished in 2020
In 2020, the West Africa region faced unprecedented levels of challenges, including protracted conflicts, climatic shocks, and poor macroeconomic conditions. The increasing number of emergencies coupled with the impact of COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the food and security needs in the region, with households living in poverty and fragile environments being more affected. Compared to the pre-COVID estimates of acute food insecurity, an additional 36 million people were projected to be food insecure (Cadre Harmonisé Phase 3-5) by the end of 2020, increasing the total burden of food insecurity to 57.6 million people (135 percent increase). This included 40 percent residing in Nigeria (23 million), a further 10 percent in Niger, and between 4 and 6 percent each in Burkina Faso,
Chad, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Mali, and Senegal. The key drivers of food insecurity expanded beyond conflict in 2020, affecting countries differently.
Countries with chronic vulnerabilities and active conflict were affected more severely by the socioeconomic consequences of the COVID-19 restrictions that were put into place, that disrupted supply chains, led to food price increases and worsened tensions. This included the Central Sahel countries (Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger),
Lake Chad Basin (Nigeria, Cameroon and Chad) and Central African Republic. Within the coastal countries, Sierra Leone and Liberia were the most impacted, likely explained by the deepening of recession this year, fuelled by food price increases of over 40 percent and persistent depreciation of the local currencies.
2020 was also characterized by a significant deterioration of the nutrition situation in the region. The number of acute malnutrition cases among children aged 6-59 months was estimated at nearly 11 million, an increase of 40 percent compared to 2019. This was the highest number in a decade, of which half can be attributed to COVID-19. WFP contributed to these estimates by providing a methodology to estimate additional cases of wasting due to COVID19. Levels were especially alarming in the Sahel countries. The joint WFP-UNICEF Nutrition Hotspot Analysis done for the six Sahel countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal) demonstrated that approximately half of the estimated figure for the region (5.4 million children) would be in these six countries.
Fill the Nutrient Gap analysis, carried out in 4 countries in 2019 and 2020 (Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Mali and Niger) indicated that on average three out of five households in the Central Sahel cannot afford of a nutritious diet. This is even higher in remote or conflict affected areas. The non-affordability of a nutritious diet is especially affecting pregnant and lactating women, as well as young children since proportionally their nutrient requirements are highest. To prevent malnutrition at scale, it is therefore essential to restructure food systems with the aim to ensure access to affordable nutritious diets for all, including in remote and conflict affected areas.
Lastly, the upsurge in insurgency and violence due to protracted conflicts, and contested presidential election results (such as in Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea and Niger) resulted in forced displacement, disruption of livelihoods and operational and access challenges. As of 15 December 2020, 5.6 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and 2.1 million refugees were reported by UNHCR across the seven hotspots for insecurity in the region (Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Mali, Niger and Nigeria). The number of IDPs increased significantly between February and November, with the highest increase in Chad (100 percent), followed by Niger (40 percent), Burkina Faso (35 percent) and Mali (30 percent). Moreover, the crisis in the Central Sahel continued to spill-over in the region, spreading to Benin and Côte d’Ivoire this year.