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West and Central Africa - Food Security Highlights, December 2020

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At the close of 2020, the food security situation in Central and Western Africa is a mixed picture. Although COVID-19 infection rates remained low compared to global figures, the impact of the pandemic led to reduced economic growth stemming from national restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the virus.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) [1] is expected to enter recession in 2020, with an expected contraction of 3.6 percent of the regional economy.[2] The restrictions on movement of people and closure of workplaces limited people’s access to income-generat - ing activities and markets, hampering access to food. The number of food-insecure people rose to almost 22 million in 2020, which is an increase of over 70 percent from the same period last year.[3] Some of the high - est needs in the region were also countries with active conflict such as Nigeria, Niger and Burkina Faso. On the other hand, some countries in the Sahel saw less significant hikes, such as Senegal and Chad while Mau - ritania saw an improvement in the number of food insecure populations. 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.[4] Without targeted support, the number of food insecure populations is expected to increase to almost 29 million by mid-2021 (lean season).[5] This worrying trend happened within a context where the region received sufficient rains this year, leading to an overall good agropastoral season. Yet, food supply doesn’t always equate to food access. Partly due to the COVID-19 restrictions which disrupted supply chains, an upsurge in food prices was recorded, while closure of work places led to diminishing incomes and purchasing power.[6] Containment measures put in place at the beginning of the pandemic were gradually eased as the first wave was brought under control, however COV - ID-19 infections are on the rise again,[7] which could lead to further restrictions that slow or limit the ability of the region to recover.
The key drivers of food insecurity expanded beyond conflict this year, affecting countries differently. Countries with chronic vulnerabilities and active conflict were affected more severely by the socio-economic conse - quences of the COVID-19 restrictions that were put into place, that disrupted supply chains, led to food price increases and worsened tensions. This document will further detail the food security situation in the region, while providing a closer look into the varied drivers.