The United Nations World Food Programme has released a grim forecast indicating that the number of people facing acute food shortage is set to nearly double from 135 million to about 265m by the end of 2020.
The global food assistance organization has called for urgent measures to increase support from countries, institutions and individuals to not only maintain the more than 100 million people it’s currently feeding, but also enable it take on more people that will fall into the desperate situation.
More worryingly perhaps for Uganda, is that a sizeable number of those that will be facing death due to hunger are from neighbouring countries; I.e D.R Congo, South Sudan, as well as nearby countries such as Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Central Africa Republic.
“The majority of people suffering acute food insecurity in 2019 were in countries affected by conflict (77 million), climate change (34 million) and economic crises (24 million people).
“10 countries constituted the worst food crises in 2019: Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syria, the Sudan, Nigeria and Haiti. (source: Global Report on Food Crises,” say WHO in a statement.
The reality of neighbouring countries experiencing acute hunger, raises the prospect of refugee pressure at least in the medium term on Uganda, a country that already hosts the highest number of refugees in Africa (I.4 million), and the third biggest refugee host in the world behind Turkey and Pakistan.
Although the government had suspended registration of new refugees, it is not clear for now though if the government will open its gates to receive more when the current COVID-19 lockdown movement restrictions are lifted.
But as already shown by the rise in the level of vulnerability in Uganda due to the lock-down measures, and the projected worsening of economic conditions for many Ugandans in coming months, many Ugandans themselves are likely to fall off the cliff.
For Uganda, WFP observes that although the countrywide food situation will remain precarious, acute food shortage will remain a major problem in smallholder families in Karamoja, refugees and asylum seekers.
COVID-19 to worsen hunger
WFP’s Senior Economist, Arif Husain says: “COVID-19 is potentially catastrophic for millions who are already hanging by a thread. It is a hammer blow for millions more who can only eat if they earn a wage. Lockdowns and global economic recession have already decimated their nest eggs. It only takes one more shock – like COVID-19 – to push them over the edge. We must collectively act now to mitigate the impact of this global catastrophe.”