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COVID’s Aftershocks: Food shortages are forcing ‘horrific’ choices

A roundup of the latest news, stats, and analysis of COVID-19’s impact in Africa. View our data tracker and sign up for our weekly newsletter. This week: the future of African vaccine manufacturing, “horrific” food choices, and more.

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Must read from ONE: Nearly all vaccines administered in Africa are manufactured elsewhere, presenting both a risk and opportunity for the continent. Unequal distribution of vaccine production sites coincides with inequitable access to vaccines. Scaling up African vaccine manufacturing capacity is crucial for combatting preventable disease, and it’s an economic and job creation strategy. Learn more in ONE’s latest data dive.

Last ACT?: The ACT-Accelerator appears to be winding down, at least in its current iteration, possibly as early as September. That could leave a void in the global effort to ensure vaccine equity. ACT-A has played an important role in ensuring that COVID-19 vaccines are delivered to low- and middle-income countries, shipping over 1 billion shots and raising more than $23 billion to finance vaccines and vaccine delivery. But funds from donor governments have declined this year, and global interest in continuing to treat COVID-19 as an urgent threat has diminished. As ONE’s Senior Policy Director for Global Health Jenny Ottenhoff noted, “It does not make sense for [ACT-A] to wind down until the whole world is ready to transition to a longer-term sustainable response to the virus.”

Trade solidarity: The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) could raise incomes in Africa by 9% and lift 50 million people out of extreme poverty by 2035, if fully implemented. This would require harmonising policies on investment, competition, e-commerce, and intellectual property rights. Driven by increases in manufactured goods, Africa’s global exports could go up by nearly one-third by 2035, and intra-African exports would more than double. Done effectively, the AfCFTA could help strengthen Africa’s food security and resilience.

Hunger pains: Hunger impacted 1 in 10 people globally in 2021, and nearly 3 in 10 people faced moderate or severe food insecurity. These sombre findings from the latest State of Food Security and Nutrition report highlight the ongoing impact of the converging crises of COVID-19, climate, and conflict. Five million children under the age of 5 were suffering from wasting, a deadly form of malnutrition that increases the risk of death by up to 12 times. Another 149 million children under age 5 had stunted development due to a chronic lack of nutrients. Apropos of nothing: G7 countries recently committed just $4.5 billion to food security, one-fifth the amount the World Food Programme needs this year alone.

“Horrific” choices: The war in Ukraine is drawing urgently needed aid away from the Horn of Africa, which is suffering its worst drought in decades. Some aid appeals for Ukraine have been fully funded within days, while emergencies in several African countries remain severely underfunded, forcing aid groups to make “horrific” choices in distributing limited resources. Schoolgirls as young as 12 across the Horn of Africa are being pushed into early marriage and female genital mutilation as families struggle to cope with the economic fallout of the drought. The number of children at risk of dropping out of school in the region has tripled in the last three months, to 3.3 million. Intent on deflecting blame for the direct impact its war in Ukraine has had on global hunger, Russia is spreading misinformation in Africa that Western sanctions are to blame for food shortages.

No chaffing matter: Bakers in Côte d’Ivoire are substituting locally produced cassava for wheat in bread due to surging global wheat prices. The country imports up to one million tons of wheat per year, and the government is subsidising the country’s 2,500 bakeries to help offset their higher wheat costs. Meanwhile, bakers from across West Africa are meeting in Dakar later this month to launch a lobbying effort for a regional benchmark of up to 15% of local content in bread products, which would benefit both local bakers and farmers. And growing interest in indigenous grains like fonio, an ancient grain that grows easily and is high in nutrients, could increase food security.

Rebel rebel: Recent attacks by a rebel group along the border between the DRC and Rwanda have rekindled a rift between the two countries and raised the spectre of war. The attacks by M23, a rebel group with historical links to the Rwandan government, have displaced more than 150,000 people in a region long troubled by violence and insecurity. Both Rwanda and Uganda have been accused of supporting rebel groups in the DRC to advance their own economic interests. Because apparently bad governance knows no borders. In happier news, the DRC declared an end to its most recent Ebola outbreak.

Arab fall: A draft constitution in Tunisia to be voted on in a 25 July referendum would significantly expand presidential power, worrying opposition leaders and observers. A symbol of democratic opening during the Arab Spring, Tunisia has increasingly flirted with authoritarianism under Kais Saied, who has been president since 2019. A legal expert handpicked by Saied to draft the constitution says the current version doesn’t resemble the version he helped write and, if approved, could lead to “a disgraceful dictatorial regime.” Tunisia’s democratic backsliding is part of a troubling trend: 80% of the global population lives with less freedom of expression than a decade ago. @#$%&!

Risky business: The Central African Republic announced plans to launch a cryptocurrency that it claims will be backed by Bitcoin. The feasibility of the plan, given the country’s high levels of poverty and low levels of electricity and internet connectivity is… unclear. In Kenya, as many as 4 million people have been impacted by the plunge in cryptocurrency values. Meanwhile, Uganda’s central bank raised interest rates by 1% in an effort to combat inflation. In the face of rising debt, inflation, and protests, the Ghanaian government is doing an about face and seeking IMF assistance, after previously pledging not to do so.

The numbers

More reads

  • The Africa SDGs Progress Dashboard has launched. (UNECA)
  • Current food shortages could lead to a global catastrophe that lasts years. (The Economist)
  • G7 countries should do more to address the food and climate crises. (The New York Times)
  • A look into which donors are funding small- and medium-sized enterprises. (Donor Tracker)
  • “It’s a sham”: Egypt accused of restricting protest in run-up to COP 27. (The Guardian)
  • Urban life has undeniable benefits. But what happens when we lose our connection to the natural world? (Orion)
  • What will it take to build an African medicines industry? We take a look in our latest data dive.
  • “If you start blaming Africans for not taking the vaccines, you’re just basically misunderstanding … what the situation is.” ONE Executive Director Edwin Ikhuoria breaks down vaccine hesitancy in this NowThis video.

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