TACOMA, Washington — The World Food Programme (WFP) is the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize 2020 for its efforts to eliminate global hunger, contributing to the improvement of the necessary conditions for peace in areas affected by conflict and for the prevention of the use of hunger as a weapon in armed conflicts. As Southern Africa experiences high food insecurity rates, the WFP is reinforcing its efforts to fight hunger and COVID-19 in Southern Africa.
Global Food Insecurity and Hunger
In 2019, 135 million people suffered from acute food insecurity and hunger, mainly resulting from war and armed conflicts. The WFP assisted almost 100 million people who suffered from food insecurity and hunger in 88 different countries.
The situation in many countries in the fight against hunger and starvation has worsened due to a combination of violent conflict, crop failures and the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) estimates that the number of people who suffer from food insecurity increased by 10% from 44.8 million last year.
According to the COVID-19 Policy Brief by the World Food Programme and the Economic Policy Research Institute (EPRI), these countries have greater demands than any other in the world when it comes to developmental challenges. Moreover, food insecurity is strongly related to the region’s systemic shocks and high levels of inequality. The COVID-19 pandemic is a clear case of the type of shocks that the Southern African region faces while it contributes to its extended vulnerability. Additionally, the pandemic has shown the importance of comprehensive and integrated social protection systems to ensure nutrition and food security throughout the territory.
WFP’s Efforts in Southern Africa
Recently, the WFP in Southern Africa reinforced its activities and adjusted its programs to the new challenges. For example, in the urban areas of Lesotho, Mozambique, Malawi and the DRC, lower-income individuals received sizable cash transfers as a part of a new WFP program.
More specifically, here’s how the WFP in Southern Africa has assisted these three countries.
Zimbabwe: Cash Transfers Aiding Impoverished Communities’ Food Needs
The impoverished urban areas in Zimbabwe have been severely affected by a triple crisis: economic instability, climate shocks and the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the WFP has scaled up its urban assistance program to provide cash transfers to at least 550 thousand people every month, focusing on the 20 worst affected and most food insecure urban areas in the country.
These cash transfers have increased from $9 to $13 and now cover 62% of every participant’s food needs. The funding of USAID, UKAID, the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations and the U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund has been crucial to achieving this increase in cash transfers.
Moreover, due to the existing volatile financial situation, the WFP in Southern Africa has explored new methods for transferring cash, which resulted in the adoption of a new voucher mechanism that allows recipients to redeem points for commodities along with Western Union’s services, where exchange codes are received via SMS for cash.
Mozambique: Treating Acute Malnutrition Amid COVID-19
The WFP is working with the Ministry of Health of Mozambique (MISAU) in the National Programme for Nutrition Rehabilitation (PRN), which attempts to implement moderate acute malnutrition treatment in 38 districts across six provinces, covering a total of 320 health facilities. The number of beneficiaries per month includes 9,860 children under 5 and 3,240 pregnant and lactating women.
The program executes this with the procurement and provision of specialized nutritious foods, strengthening the government’s health staff in regard to its capacities at provincial and district levels, monitoring and evaluating and demanding generation. The latter consists of referring people, especially pregnant women, children under 5 and those with HIV, to receive treatment for acute malnutrition. Additionally, the project holds community debates on topics related to malnutrition and HIV/TB treatments and a community radio spreads these messages, alongside interviews and success stories.
Now, the MISAU has taken mitigation measures to avoid the spread of COVID-19 in Southern Africa, and the WFP is providing technical support to MISAU on adapting this program to the new reality. This includes delivering updates to the national inventory of nutrition supplies for the COVID-19 response and giving soap bars and constructing “tip-taps” in communities where the WFP is assisting the PRN program to prevent the spread of the disease.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): Facing the Second-Largest Hunger Crisis
The WFP in Southern Africa has to deal with the second-largest hunger crisis happening in the DRC, where 21.8 million people are acutely food insecure and approximately 5 million children are acutely malnourished.
Its food and nutrition assistance scaled up to reach 7.6 million people at the beginning of 2020. More specifically, due to the Level 3 emergency response, the WFP has provided food to 88,900 people in the province of Ituri, 41,700 people in Kasai and 55,200 people in Tanganyika. In addition to this, the WFP sent $2.2 million in cash-based transfers to the Congolese people.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the WFP in Southern Africa decided to collaborate with local authorities and establish preventive measures that include mandatory handwashing, temperature checks and physical distancing. According to the WFP, the organization continues to provide food assistance and nutrition intervention in all provinces.
These are only a few of the cases where the World Food Programme has contributed to the global fight against hunger, not only in the Southern African region but around the world. Challenges remain and the COVID-19 pandemic might make ending global hunger difficult. Still, the efforts made by the WFP, its expertise on humanitarian logistics and with the help of numerous donors and contributors, humanitarian organization like the WFP continue generating great impacts in the most vulnerable communities.