***FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE***
May 20, 2020
BALTIMORE – On Wednesday, May 20, 2020, World Relief, a Christian humanitarian organization that brings sustainable solutions to respond to disasters and alleviate poverty worldwide, hosted a live press call on how the global COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating food insecurity in developing countries, particularly those in Africa, and ways to respond.
The press call included an on-the-ground perspective on the spread of COVID-19 from World Relief food security experts; background on the underlying conditions exacerbating the pandemic in developing countries; and the programs that World Relief has in place to prevent and address the crisis and food shortages.
“We’re looking at what is emerging to be one of the greatest humanitarian disaster in recent history,” said Myal Greene, SVP of International Programs. “Much of the world has felt the severity of COVID-19, but [we’re] recognizing that the potential medical emergency, as well as food scarcity in Africa and other countries, is really significant. The World Food Programme says the number of people who are pushed into starvation could double. In a crisis like this, it’s essential we think of both individual agencies’ ability to respond and the support of international governments. This is why we believe it’s essential the $12 billion in aid in the latest U.S. response to [the novel] coronavirus pass Congress.”
“Even before this virus, the hunger needs in Sudan, South Sudan and the DR Congo were huge. There are 80 million people in Congo, 40 million in Sudan and 11 million in South Sudan. In Congo, half of the country has food needs, [with similar needs] in the other countries.” said Charles Franzén, Humanitarian and Disaster Response Director. “The major thing to look at in these three countries is the conflict that’s taken place in the past and the result of the very serious civil wars – [all of] that has exacerbated the food needs there. The virus makes this situation much worse. World Relief is providing food and nutritional assistance to about 200,000 people in Sudan [and] 150,000 in the Congo. In South Sudan, we’re reaching out with agricultural seeds and tools and providing food assistance and meeting life-saving needs for about 130,000 people.”
Franzén continued, “We also have a huge youth population in Africa; 75% of the population is below the age of fifteen. We need to provide food for schools, educational programs and lactating mothers. We can’t forget our neighbors in other parts of the world as well.”
“Here in Kenya, the impact of COVID-19 is already being felt,” said Elias M. Kamau, Country Director for Kenya at World Relief. “What we are seeing here is this huge humanitarian need in the area of food, brought about by COVID-19. We are working in the very northwestern corner of Kenya and southern Kenya – which normally has food insecurities, but COVID-19 has exacerbated the problem. About 14.5 million Kenyans (a third of the population) are very food insecure and in need of food support every year, and now COVID-19 is adding to that strain.”
Kamau continued: “The government has been active in placing measures to prevent expansion of COVID-19. Some of those measures are leading to the problem of food insecurities. We have lockdowns in Nairobi, Mombasa and other areas. [Since] about 84% of our people are in the informal sector, when they’re not allowed to step outside, they’re not able to create income, [and] then they can’t purchase food. Scarcity has driven up prices of staple foods like maize, making it difficult for people to access it. If the imports don’t pick up, eastern Kenya could face food shortages of 50,000-60,000 tons.”
About World Relief
World Relief is a global Christian humanitarian organization that brings sustainable solutions to the world’s greatest problems – disasters, extreme poverty, violence, oppression, and mass displacement. For over 75 years, we’ve partnered with churches and community leaders in the U.S. and abroad to bring hope, healing and transformation to the most vulnerable.
Learn more at worldrelief.org.