Recent hard-won gains in food security and nutrition are at risk, the UN agency said, forcing the government this week to declare a social and economic emergency.
Unless urgent action is taken, the crisis will severely disrupt access to food and agricultural production, putting more lives at risk as the country is largely dependent on food imports to meet its needs.
communities at risk
“Current levels of food insecurity are unprecedented. Unless appropriate measures are taken urgently, local agricultural production, livestock and the livelihoods of rural communities are under serious threat,” said Dr. Gouantoueu Robert Guei, FAO Sub-Regional Coordinator for West Africa and his representative in Senegal.
The crisis is driven by a combination of factors, including years of drought, which have led to significant drops in food production and loss of pastures.
COVID-19 has also dealt a heavy blow as the country is heavily dependent on tourism, which accounts for over 60% of its gross domestic product, while nearly 70% of the population is employed in the sector.
The pandemic has brought the economy to a halt, resulting in a nearly 80% decline in tourism revenues in just two years.
Impact of the war in Ukraine
The situation has been further compounded by the ripple effects of the war in Ukraine, which is affecting global food and energy markets, disrupting supply chains and causing sharp spikes in food prices. The poorest people were disproportionately impacted.
In April, WFP, together with the government of Cape Verde and its sister UN agency, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), carried out an assessment mission in the country.
The results showed that vulnerable households in rural areas are reducing the number of their meals and eating less, sometimes just once a day, as food stocks are dwindling and food prices hit record highs.
School feeding program at risk
In addition, farmers are selling their livestock and reducing milk and cheese production. The country also experienced a 34% rainfall deficit last season, resulting in the region’s biggest 2021 cereal production drop last year, with a staggering 93% cut in production.
Cape Verde is also home to West Africa’s first national school feeding program, which supports vulnerable families and helps prevent a reversal in school enrollment and attendance rates.
The program is also at risk of being suspended because the government is unable to provide all the necessary goods.
appeal for support
“The current situation in Cape Verde highlights the fragility of food and social protection systems in West African coastal countries,” said Elvira Pruscini, WFP Assistant Regional Director for West Africa.
“It is critical that we come together now to support the government in maintaining essential social safety net programs and meeting the immediate food and nutrition needs of the most vulnerable communities.”
WFP and FAO are seeking US$15 million to support a two-year government response plan aimed at bolstering national safety net programs such as school meals, supporting resilience-building activities and increasing agricultural production.