Executive Directors and Country Directors of ActionAid programmes in Africa have sent a joint letter to their heads of state and regional bodies, including the Africa Union (AU), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Southern African Development Community (SADC), East African Community (EAC), and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
The letter raises concerns about the impact of soaring food prices following Russia's invasion of Ukraine on hundreds of millions of people in Africa, particularly women and children. It calls for urgent action to tackle rising hunger.
Calls for urgent action for AU member states on exacerbated food prices following Ukraine war
First of all, we salute AU’s swift response statement on 28th Feb 2022 to the reported blocks on African Citizens trying to cross the Ukraine border: this unacceptable treatment is shockingly racist and in breach of international law. We also applaud the AU 2022 theme “Strengthening resilience in nutrition and food security on the Africa continent”. The theme is significant in addressing malnutrition and improving food security across the continent.
While recognizing the importance of the theme, as leaders of ActionAid programmes over 19 countries across Africa, we are gravely concerned by the increases in food prices that had already reached record highs when the Ukraine conflict began and that are getting worse as each day passes. The war in Ukraine seriously disrupted the food supply chain. African countries are major trading partners with Russia and Ukraine for supplies of wheat, edible oil and fertilizer. Half of the grains distributed by the World Food Progamme (WFP) through its food support programmes come from Ukraine and Russia.
The rising price of food has disproportional impacts on people living in poverty, particularly women and children. It is also so critical in humanitarian crisis, such as the worsening climate-induced drought in the Horn of Africa where over 14 million people are facing severe hunger and water shortages. The Cyclone in Southern Africa Countries affected 2.7 million people. There are also millions of refugees and internally displaced people in the Horn and West Africa because of political crisis and conflicts. In the aftermath of the Ukraine crisis, other humanitarian crisis including the humanitarian crisis in Africa are not receiving enough economic, political and public support.
In addition to the above there are now 100 million low-income urban dwellers who are hard hit by the rising food prices, many of them women headed households. People in the continent are already grappling to cope with the economic fall out of the Covid 19 pandemic and this is placing women and girls at increased risk of gender-based violence and exploitation – as always happens at times of hunger.
1. We call on your excellency to address the ever-increasing food prices
- Your government must take policy measures to subsidize food accessibility to low-income people in particular women and children.
- Your government must increase social protection safety nets and other measures to improve the income of people in urban and rural areas to cope with the increasing food prices
- Your government must invest in building national food reserves to act as buffers and reduce vulnerability to food shortages and price rises.
- Your government should scale-up support to smallholder farmers, especially women smallholders and sustainable agroecological approaches to farming, so farmers can improve soil fertility for crop production, without the use of expensive fossil-fuel chemical fertilizers.
- Your government in the medium term need to accelerate climate justice as a continental and international priority - ass climate change is expected to drive 122 million more people into poverty by 2030.
2. While addressing the immediate needs with urgency the above policies can only happen if African countries act collectively and united to get the necessary fiscal space to fund them. Thus, we appeal to your government to collectively resist any pressures to impose austerity policies and cuts to public spending – which all too often are recommended by the IMF in response to rising prices. In the face of the current conflict, the climate crisis and Covid, African countries need to invest more, not less, in gender responsive public services. Instead of austerity, governments ought to invest in ambitious and progressive tax reforms that pass the burden on those richest individuals and companies who are most able to pay.
3. We also call on your government to engage and remind the EU, USAID, and all other donors and the wider public, of the importance of adequately supporting the humanitarian crises in our continent
4. We call for a greater action by your government to monitor the ill treatments of Africans in Ukraine and neighboring countries and engage with the EU in ensuring the respect and fulfillment of peoples’ human rights including from racial discrimination and abuse.
5. We also call on citizens across Africa and their institutions to ensure consumer rights through monitoring food, fuel and related prices and through acting against selfish traders who take advantage of the disruptions in food supply chains.
ActionAid is a global federation that works closely with citizens, civil society organizations and social movements to empower people living in poverty and exclusion to fight for women’s rights, social justice and an end to poverty. At ActionAid, we help people use their own power to bring about real change for women, communities, and societies. We are present in 46 countries, 19 of which are in Africa, reaching thousands of communities.
Signed: Executive Directors and Country Directors of ActionAid programmes in Africa:
ActionAid Sierra Leone
ActionAid South Africa
ActionAid The Gambia