The conflict in Ukraine is driving up global food and fuel prices which is affecting efforts to feed millions in West Africa, where hunger levels have reached a 10-year high, the World Food Programme (WFP) reported on Thursday. 

Operational costs for 2022 are set to rise by $136 million in the region alone, the agency said, just as acute hunger has quadrupled over the past three years, with 43 million people expected to face acute food insecurity by June. 

⚠️ West Africa is facing an unprecedented hunger crisis.

The number of hungry families has quadrupled in just 3 years. Now, the surging costs of food and fuel are making it harder for them to cope and stretching even thinner the resources to help.

Learn more ⬇️

— World Food Programme (@WFP) April 14, 2022

WFP said this additional cost could have been used to provide six million school children with a daily nutritious meal for six months, at a time when millions of families are struggling due to the unprecedent food crisis driven by conflict, climate, the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, and now rising prices. 

Millions at risk 

“Soaring food and fuel prices will not only put millions at risk of hunger; they are also forcing WFP into an impossible situation of having to take from the hungry to feed the starving,said Chris Nikoi, Regional Director for Western Africa.

Before the war in Ukraine, limited funding was already forcing WFP to cut rations in Nigeria, the Central African Republic, Chad, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Mali, and Niger. 

 “With the unfolding conflict in Ukraine, ports and suppliers are no longer accessible with shipments from the wider Black Sea delayed or simply cancelled, affecting WFP’s operations in Western Africa,” he added. 

Fears of social unrest 

People in Ghana are already feeling the pinch.  Elizabeth Arhinful has a stall in Agbogbloshie market, one of the busiest trading hubs in the country. The record rise in food prices means customers are buying less

“In August last year, for a gallon of oil you would pay 105 Ghana cedis (around $13). But this year, less than a year later, it has gone up to 400 cedis (around $52),” she said recently. 

Elvira Pruscini, WFP Regional Deputy Director, warned of the potential dire consequences of the food and nutrition crisis. 

“Rising food prices will drive more people into hunger. Rising food prices will actually cause food riots, political instability, social unrest, as we have seen in the past decade,” she said. 

Food assistance to the people of Madjoari village, Burkina Faso.

© WFP/Cheick Omar Bandaogo

Food assistance to the people of Madjoari village, Burkina Faso.

Scaling up support 

WFP is scaling up response in the face of this new crisis to reach 22 million people in West Africa.   

This includes eight million in dire food need across five Sahelian countries – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali Mauritania, and Niger.  Assistance will run from the agricultural lean season starting in June, through the post-harvest period in October.  

To meet needs, WFP urgently requires an additional $951 million over the next six months, though Mr. Nikoi stressed the need for longer-term solutions. 

“We need to ramp up our lifesaving assistance to limit the impact of the crisis on vulnerable families,” he said.

“But this vital emergency support has to be accompanied by longer-term interventions, by strengthening national systems and the resilience of communities, to reduce humanitarian needs over time and pave the way toward sustainable solutions to hunger and malnutrition.”