The Ministers of Agriculture, and Health, in collaboration with the World Food Program (WFP), and other sector partners have launched two-week rapid food security and nutrition assessment survey intended for urban and rural communities within the fifteen counties of Liberia.
The initiative is a part of efforts to assess the impacts of the global crisis on agricultural production, rural livelihoods, food security, and the nutritional status of households and communities.
The Socio-economic shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine have further hampered the already precarious food security situation in Liberia in recent years.
According to the 2022 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report, the number of people affected by hunger globally rose to as many as 828 million in 2021, an increase of about 46 million since 2020 and 150 million since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, with Sub-Saharan Africa bearing the heaviest burden.
Also, the current Ukraine-Russia crisis has impacted Liberia at both the macro and household levels.
According to the assessment of the risks and impact of the Russian-Ukrainian Crisis on Food Security in the ECOWAS Region – June 2022 carried out jointly by FAO, WFP, and ECOWAS; the total cereal production (maize, rice, millet, sorghum, fonio, and wheat) is down by 1.8% compared to last year for all West African countries, a release from WFP has said.
The report says in Liberia a 10% decline in the local production of rice in 2023 as compared to 2022 is expected.
“We’ve been facing several ongoing shocks and those shocks are known to be the kinds of shocks that increase vulnerability and reduce resilience. But how far has vulnerability increased, or resilience eroded? These are things we don’t really know,” said Agriculture Minister, Jeanine M. Cooper.
“Because of the crisis in Ukraine, and the harsh dry season that we faced where water levels dropped below what we can remember, we realized that we have anecdotal evidence that we have a crisis on our hands, but we don’t have the robust, evidence-based, technical reliance. So, I’m very happy to launch this assessment so we have data on what is going on in terms of food security, malnutrition, and vulnerability that our populations face and so that we can design our responses, Page 2 of 2 programs, plans and structure them to help people get through these shocks and increase their resilience so that these shocks, even though they continue, do not turn into a disaster,” Minister Cooper added.
The Rapid Food Security and Nutrition Assessment, funded by the United Nations Joint SDG Fund, will be undertaken by key partners including the Ministries of Agriculture and Health, UN Agencies (WFP, FAO, UNICEF, and WHO), and NGOs. Training of the enumerators commenced on 15 July and field data collection is scheduled to take place from 19 July – 4 August 2022.
“This assessment is coming at the right time,” said Minister of Health, Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah.
“Working as a team, all of us can ensure that the assessment is done so that, despite what is happening globally, we can prevent malnutrition and ensure that pregnant women survive to have healthy babies who will grow up to be productive citizens in the country. So that the citizens of Liberia can have a brighter future.” Dr. Aliou Diongue, WFP Liberia’s Representative and Country Director said.
“As Liberians continue to struggle with prices spike that is straining the purchasing power of households and increasing vulnerability due to the fragile situation with COVID-19 and the global energy crisis and high food prices; there’s no better time to gather critical data so that the Government and development partners can understand the food security and nutrition situation across the country and have strong evidence for programming and decision making,” Diongue added.
He continued, “WFP Liberia’s Research, Assessment, and Monitoring (RAM) Unit is prepared to lead this survey using a combination of existing assessment technologies to identify the underlying causes of food insecurity and nutrition in the country.
“With that information, we can work together and take a holistic approach to mitigate the impact of this crisis on vulnerable people in Liberia,” he added.
Since 2018, Liberia is yet to conduct or release a comprehensive food security and nutrition survey report.
However, this year Welthungerhilfe and Concern Worldwide in collaboration with the government of Liberia through the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Health launched the 2021 Global Hunger Index report which indicated the nutrition status of Liberia as being “serious”.
The country now ranks 110 out of 135 countries assessed with a score of 33.3 out of 100 on the issue of nutrition. Malnutrition and stunting still remain serious issues, especially among children. This indicates that more needs to be done to improve the food and nutrition status of the nation, according to the report.
The report is a comprehensive tool designed to measure and track the level of hunger in the world.
It is valued on four component indicators, including undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting, and child mortality rate, which are reported by countries.
Some issues highlighted in the report and also recommended by the stakeholders, included the need to enhance the resilience of the food system by addressing conflicts and climate change, improving financing opportunities for agriculture, encouraging multi-sectoral relationships for food security improvement, and attracting more young people’s involvement for agriculture.