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The reality of COVID-19 burden on food security in the Horn and Eastern Africa

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THE IMPACT ON FOOD SECURITY

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a devastating impact on already fragile livelihoods and unstable economies in the Horn and East Africa. Some of these impacts may include reduced agricultural productivity, weak supply chains, increased cross border trade tensions, limited employment prospects and rising political and regulatory uncertainty.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, 33.1 million people in the eastern and central Africa region were severely food insecure (IPC phase 3 or worse) and required food assistance.

Of these, 16.95 million are from four of the eight IGAD member countries (Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan). In recent months, flooding and displacement have pushed thousands into food insecurity. In addition, a predicted second generation of desert locust infestation poses a large-scale threat to food security in the greater Horn of Africa. An already bleak food security picture will be compounded as the the COVID-19 pandemic could destroy livelihoods, disrupt supply chains, strain national budgets, and restrict trade. The UN is predicting that the number of severely insecure in the world could double in the next year.

Agriculture remains one of the largest contributors of GDP in the Greater Horn of Africa, a region characterized by high poverty levels, weak health systems, crowded urban areas, and high levels of diseases including malnutrition, malaria, TB and HIV/AIDS.

Furthermore, Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and South Sudan are also affected by armed conflict.

In early March 2020, the region recorded its first detection of COVID-19 cases, and since then the pandemic has grown considerably in the region, now reaching 18,061 cases and 389 deaths as of 29th June. The spread is still moderately low considering that the total global cases have now reached about 10.5 million with around 500,000 deaths.

Restrictions on movement within and across countries is disrupting regional and national food supply chains and affecting the availability of food as well as labor markets and supplies of critical agriculture inputs. This will pose a challenge for food production and could jeopardize food security for all people, especially the poor and marginalized.
Access to food will be increasingly difficult for the most vulnerable. A global recession would exacerbate the situation, as it would limit job opportunities, disrupt the flow of remittances and drive food prices upward as food production slows.