As COVID-19 Surges In Nigeria with 782 Cases, 25 Deaths, FAO Calls For Coherent Actions To Tackle Food Crises

412 views | Akanimo Sampson | April 22, 2020

Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Director-General, Qu Dongyu, says coherent actions are currently needed to address the root causes that perpetuate existing food crises.

He specifically said such actions are needed among humanitarian, development and peace actors, 

The call is coming as conflicts, extreme weather, desert locusts, economic shocks and the rampaging COVID-19, are pushing more people into acute food insecurity. 

Already in Nigeria, there is a huge leap of confirmed positive cases of COVID-19. The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) says the country on Tuesday recorded an all-time high figure of 117 new cases in a single day.

According to NCDC, as at 11.25 pm on Tuesday, the total number of confirmed cases in Nigeria stood at 782 confirmed cases.

This reporter had warned on Tuesday that the COVID-19 situation in Nigeria was growing more critical every day, with the numbers expected to rise dramatically over the coming weeks. 

He also reported that Nigeria urgently needs to train hundreds of community health workers and health care providers to ensure that those on the front line have the knowledge and skills to identify symptoms, prevent transmission, and reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

The virus has the potential to spread at an unparalleled rate among Nigeria’s most vulnerable and marginalised communities, including slum areas where families live in cramped and poor living conditions.

Interestingly, the number of patients successfully treated and discharged has continued to rise with 197 cases so far.

Of the 117 new cases reported, Lagos returned to the top chart after 24 hours break with 59 cases.

The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) follows with 29 cases, Kano 14, Borno six, Katsina four, Ogun three, Rivers and Bauchi one case each.

Sadly, while the number of deaths recorded in the country is now 25, NCDC says it readjusted the figures of confirmed cases between Lagos and Ogun.

By the readjustment, five cases previously reported in Lagos have now been transferred to Ogun. That leaves Lagos with reported 430 confirmed cases and Ogun 20 confirmed cases.

The FAO big boss was, however, delivering his remarks at an online briefing organised by the United Nations Security Council on the topic of The Protection of civilians from conflict-induced hunger.

Speaking about the global food crises, he stressed that it is impossible to ignore impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on the food security of the world’s most vulnerable populations, and assured the participants that FAO is working at all levels with its member states to reduce the risk of the pandemic disrupting food systems and causing a global food crisis.   

During the meeting, Qu also presented the key findings of the Global Report on Food Crises launched jointly by the European Union, FAO, the World Food Programme and 12 other partners – clearly showing the link between conflict and rising levels of acute food insecurity on one hand, and between livelihood interventions and peace processes on the other. 

To this end, the FAO Director-General pointed to the importance of early warning and quick action to pre-empt food insecurity caused by conflicts. “We need prevention, as the forecasts for food security in 2020 look bleak,” he said, referring to the report’s key findings.

According to the report, even before the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic hit the global food systems and livelihoods of millions of people at the start of the year, 135 million people in 55 countries were already trapped in food crises situations struggling to cope with high levels of hunger.

This is the highest number in the last four years. Almost 60 per cent of all those people in 2019 faced acute hunger in contexts of conflict or instability.

In this context, he expressed concern about the situation in South Sudan, where more than half of the population is expected to face crisis levels of food insecurity or worse, and in Yemen, which remains the world’s worst food and malnutrition crisis with the number of acutely food-insecure people expected to exceed 17 million in 2020.

FAO’s experience shows that interventions supporting livelihoods and food security contribute to local peace and broader peace processes, Qu said, stressing the need to address not only the symptoms but also the root causes of conflict.

As an example, he cited the nature of conflicts in the Sahel where 12 million people experienced acute food insecurity last year, and this number could rise to 17 million during the upcoming lean season.

In many areas, the relationship between farmers and pastoral herders, which was once cooperative, has become confrontational as they compete over the same scarce resources, Qu said.

By closely monitoring the evolution of these shocks, rapid intervention to mitigate their impacts is possible, and FAO and its partners are already working to strengthen the resilience of these communities, with a focus on cross-border areas, he added.

“We are committed to rising to this challenge and we have mobilized our organizations in ways not seen since the foundation of the UN”, he stressed.

Qu concluded by saying that FAO will continue supporting the Security Council by providing professional consultation with up-to-date information and analysis on food security in conflict contexts to facilitate the Council’s timely action to avert food crises.

During the meeting, the Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), David Beasley; and the Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Jan Egeland, also delivered remarks. The meeting was convened at the initiative of the Dominican Republic, this month’s Council president.

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