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WHO Scales Up Food Aid Response In Affected Regions In Africa

WHO has intensified its response to the looming health crisis in Africa as food insecurity worsens which is threatening health risks across regions.

Speaking during a media briefing yesterday, World Health Organization (WHO) Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the food crisis across the globe needs to be addressed immediately.

“Spiking prices not only for food but fuel and other commodities are leading to millions of people missing meals and going hungry. This is having major physical and mental health repurcussions,” he said.

WHO is scaling up its operations in Africa as the region faces acute food insecurity caused by conflict, extreme weather events including the worst drought in 40 years induced by climate change, rising international food and fuel prices and the impact of the pandemic.

Over 80 million people in the African region are food insecure and resorting to desperate measures to feed themselves and their families.

Acute malnutrition is high, especially among children. As malnutrition increases, the health needs in the region are mounting, especially among children, and clean water is becoming scarce.

As people leave their homes in search of food, they can no longer access health services, and become more at risk from disease outbreaks.

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WHO Assistant Director-General for Emergency Response, Dr Ibrahima Socé Fall highlighted that the cost of inaction is high.

“While the clear priority is to prevent people from starving, we must simultaneously strengthen our health response to prevent disease and save lives. Even one life lost from a vaccine-preventable disease, diarrhoea, or medical complications from malnutrition in today’s world is one life too many,” he said.

Meanwhile in Zimbabwe, prices of food fuel and other basic commodities has also increased leaving millions to starve.

According to the SADC RVAA synthesis report, during the January to March 2022 lean season, about 27% of rural Zimbabweans were food insecure. This translates to 2,942,897 individuals, who collectively required 262,856 tons of maize.

Climate change is bringing harsher and more frequent drought to Zimbabwe, threatening the staple maize crop.

At the same time, efforts to adapt are struggling as the country contends with an economic crisis compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and war in Ukraine.

Farmers in the southern African nation have in recent years turned to climate-smart practices such as reducing tilling and using water-saving drip irrigation, with some growing drought-hardy grains such as sorghum.

However, Zimbabwe’s maize production is still expected to fall by 43% in the 2021-2022 season due to poor rainfall, a government assessment found in May.

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The United Nations’ World Food Programme said in January that more than 5 million Zimbabweans – a third of the population – were facing hunger, and fears are rising that the government order to sell maize will only make things worse as people struggle with soaring living costs.

Inflation soared above 190% this month – its highest level in more than a year – stirring fears of a repeat of the hyperinflation that wiped out people’s savings a decade ago.

Analysts and aid agencies have warned that rising farming costs caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and by the pandemic could lead to fewer crops being planted and exacerbate a food crisis not just in Zimbabwe but across Africa.

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