Conflict and COVID-19 are also worsening food insecurity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, northern Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan
FAO Director-Genaral QU Dongyu, today warned the United Nations Security Council that Burkina Faso, South Sudan and Yemen were at risk of a looming famine and appealed for an urgent and united humanitarian response to save lives and livelihoods.
“Tragically, there are many more situations where conflict and instability, now also exacerbated by COVID 19, are drivers for more serious hunger and acute food insecurity. This is particularly visible in areas where conflict and other factors such as economic turbulence, and extreme weather, are already driving people into poverty and hunger,” he said.
In a virtual briefing to the Security Council on conflict and hunger, Qu also underscored the dire situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, northern Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan.
The Security Council invited FAO’s Director-General, the United Nations’ Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, and David Beasley, the Executive Director of the World Food Programme, to provide an update on the food security situation in a number of countries around the world experiencing food insecurity.
“Worldwide, those hardest hit include the urban poor, informal workers and pastoral communities as well as people who are already particularly vulnerable – children, women, the elderly, the sick and people with disabilities,” the FAO Director-General said.
“We need first and fast aid to stop hunger, we need prevention and production locally, we need political willingness and we need collective actions, as the forecasts for food security in 2020 continue to worsen,” he added.
This is the second time this year that Qu has been asked to brief the Security Council on situations of conflict induced food insecurity. Together with Lowcock and Beasley he last addressed the UN body in April.
COVID-19, Desert Locust are factors exacerbating acute food insecurity
Qu expressed deep concern about the latest data on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which shows that some 21.8 million people are unable to get enough food on a daily basis. Qu said this was “the highest number of people experiencing crisis or worse levels of acute food insecurity ever recorded in a single country”.
In Yemen, Qu pointed out that Desert Locusts have further threatened food availability. “FAO urges all those concerned to work towards granting access for control operations to prevent the pest from further worsening the deteriorating situation in Yemen and beyond,” he said.
He also expressed “great alarm” about the worsening situation in Burkina Faso, where the number of people experiencing crisis or worse levels of acute food insecurity has almost tripled.
In northern Nigeria, between June and August 2020, the number of people in crisis or facing emergency levels of acute food insecurity increased by 73 percent compared to the 2019 peak figure and reached almost 8.7 million, Qu said.
He noted that in Somalia, 3.5 million people face crisis or worse levels of acute food insecurity between July and September 2020. This increase of 67 percent compared to the 2019 peak is due to the triple shocks experienced this year – COVID-19, floods and the desert locust upsurge. “While much progress has been made in controlling the locusts, FAO is making every effort to sustain control operations,” the Director-General said.
In Sudan, the number of people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance has risen by 64 percent, between June and September 2020, reaching around 9.6 million people, the highest level ever recorded in the country, with serious floods further exacerbating the situation.
Combating acute food insecurity, harnessing the power of investments and innovation
In his address to the Security Council, the FAO Director-General called for a “package of solutions” to be put in place in order to combat acute food insecurity effectively. He said humanitarian-development-peace actions must be well coordinated and complementary and that they need to be mutually reinforcing across global, regional, national and local levels.
“Humanitarian actors can provide first aid. Agri-food systems can play a more sustainable function for better production, better nutrition, better environment and a better life,” Qu said.
He noted that there was “good news” with FAO forecasting in 2020 a bumper harvest globally in major crops – an all-time high year, with 58 million tonnes above the 2019 outturn.
Qu stressed that such an achievement was being reached thanks to enabling policies, investment and “the hard work by millions of famers”.
“Lasting peace and harmony can be achieved, through good policies and investment in agriculture infrastructure and capacity building in the rural development, especially in conflict areas,” he said.
Qu said the Security Council can play a pivotal role in addressing the threat of conflict induced acute food insecurity by promoting dialogue and seeking solutions to conflict and violence. This would allow for urgent life-saving and livelihood-saving operations to be scaled up and better integrated humanitarian and development responses to be delivered that address the multiple drivers of food insecurity.
“Once again let me assure the Council of FAO’s continued support through policy advice, technical assistance, our Big Data platform and concrete services on the ground,” the Director-General concluded.
Staff Assured of Job Security After Dissolution of LAUTECH Joint Ownership
After the dissolution of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) by the National University Commission (NUC), the staffs of the institutions have been assured of job Security by Osun State Government “indigenes of Oyo and Osun State working in either of the two entities will retain all their rights and obligations stipulated in their letters of engagement.”
On Saturday Mrs. Funke Egbemonde, Osun State Commissioner for Information and Civic Orientation disclosed in a statement she made available to the media that, “Osun Students will not be subjected to fees or admission differentials. They will pay the same tuition fees as their Oyo counterparts”.
She said, “Government of Osun wishes to assure its citizens that the dissolution of its joint ownership of LAUTECH, following new terms of management spelled out by the National University Commission (NUC), is in no way skewed against the state.
“All workers of Osun extraction either in the College of Health Sciences and LAUTECH ceded to Osun or those in Ogbomoso are assured of job security. There will be no intimidation or discrimination against them in the discharge of their duties.
“The agreement states that indigenes of Oyo and Osun State working in either of the two entities will retain all their rights and obligations stipulated in their letters of engagements, therefore the State Government of Osun wishes to inform citizens that there is no need to fret about the dissolution, as all workers of Osun extraction are assured of the security of their jobs.
“Both Osun and Oyo states have mutually agreed that the joint ownership of LAUTECH be formally dissolved following extensive mediation by the National Universities Commission (NUC), on the need to restore tranquillity and conducive learning environment in both institutions. The decision became necessary as a result of governance and management challenges”.
Sanwo-olu Was Misinformed; Nobody Died At The Toll Gate – Brig.-Gen Taiwo
During the Lagos State Judicial Panel of Enquiry and Restitution for Victims of SARS abuse and other related matters on Saturday, Brig. Gen. Taiwo said that Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State was misinformed about the number of casualties recorded at the protest ground.
“Sanwo-Olu misinformed; nobody died at toll-gate,” he said
This was in contradiction to the statement credited to Lagos state governor that two protesters died at Lekki toll-gate.
According to the General, the supposed death did not happen at the protest ground.
“On 20th October 2020, at about 6.30 pm, while we tried to speak with the protesters and negotiate with them, they pelted stones at us and we had to fire blank bullets at protesters”.
General Taiwo alleged that most of the pictures posted on social media were not taken on the said date.
“Any picture that you (lawyers) want to present here must be submitted for forensic test.
“No protester sustained injury or died. The two people Governor Sanwo-Olu mentioned did not die at the scene; one died on Admiralty Way, which is three kilometers away from the Lekki Toll Gate, the second person was shot at Yaba,” Taiwo said.
When asked if the General was aware of the news about the protest on any foreign media, he claimed to have seen the news from BBC and CNN but not from Al-Jazeera
“Most of the videos in play have been manipulated,” Gen Taiwo said.
“Two people fainted, not died”
When asked about the presence of Omata at Lekki toll-gate on the day of the shooting, Gen. Taiwo said Omata and Bello were assigned to secure the Lekki-Epe corridor and were supposed to meet and be on their way before the Lekki incident occurred.
Taiwo explained that the exercise was led by two senior officers Lieutenant Colonel S. O. Bello who is the Commanding Officer of 65 Division, and Brigadier General Francis Omata.
When asked by Olumide-Fusika about the purpose of General Omata joining Lieutenant Colonel Bello at the toll gate, General Taiwo said it was operational.
But the #EndSARS protesters’ lawyer disagreed.
He said: “Are you aware that Gen Omata came later to stop your men from shooting?”
The officer replied: “He didn’t. He was there after the shooting had occurred. He was there to employ the non-kinetic (non-violent) measures”.
Taiwo said: “The General Officer Commanding was not in town. I called Gen Omata, he was already on ground”.
Ogunlana: “You also called Bello, why?”
Taiwo: “I was getting conflicting reports from social media and the internet. I wanted to find out what happened.
“On the internet, we were seeing videos being streamed purportedly of shootings on the ground; people screaming ‘they are killing us’ videos to that effect, so I called him.
“When the first report came in, I dismissed it. I knew nobody sent anyone to the Toll Gate….I asked him if he was anywhere near the toll gate and he said they had been stoned by hoodlums and he released some shots into the air.
“I also asked him if anybody had died as it was being reported on the internet, he replied in the negative. He had only seen two people who had fainted and they had been revived”.
As regards the shootings, the general responded to a question from Mr. Bernard Oniga, a representative of the NBA, he said that the army fired in response to the stones thrown at them.
“We shoot if pelted with stones”
“If you are being pelted with stones, the only option is gunshot. You can’t expect us to throw stones back”.
The panel ruled that following Ogunlana’s request, the facility might soon become the subject of forensic and ballistic analysis. The parties were given two weeks to conclude all analysis.
However, Mr. Olumide-Fusika claimed that there was evidence of shootings on the facilities at the toll plaza.
Amidst Festivities, Africans Should Be On High Alert To Avoid Surge in COVID-19 Cases – WHO
In light of the festive period, the World Health Organisation (WHO) urges African countries to be on high alert for a possible surge in COVID-19 cases this season.
The health organisation stated, in a new report, that nearly 20 countries in the African region have experienced an uptick in COVID-19 cases.
While the first wave of COVID-19 cases was triggered by hotspots in Southern Africa, the latest increase is likely to be driven by the North African Region where temperatures are already falling.
Despite reports of a downward trend in the plateau, COVID-19 cases have been increasing since early October in Africa.
The World Health Organisation statement revealed that out of the 47 countries in the WHO African Region, 19 countries have reported over a 20 percent increase in new cases in the past 28 days compared with the previous four weeks.
However, there has been a 20 percent decline in the number of new cases in 17 countries over the past 28 days, compared with the previous four weeks.
The report also states that there have been increasing records of health worker infections and deaths, particularly the experienced health workers.
WHO has identified that Large group gatherings and mobility are high-risk factors that increase the spread of COVID-19 and the approaching festive/holiday season can promote these risks, which might lead to super spreader events.
According to WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, he said “As we near the time of year when people get on the move to spend their holidays together, there is a bigger risk of COVID-19 transmission”
“New clusters of cases can emerge in places that have so far been unaffected as people travel or gather for festivities. But we can lower the risks by wearing masks, limiting the numbers of people who come together, observing physical distancing and practicing good hand hygiene. We can celebrate yet do so safely”. He explained.
WHO emplored member states to conduct risk assessment at all levels, ensure all safety measures and precautions are put in place.
In an effort to re-energize key public health measures, WHO is launching the “Mask Up, Not Down”. The campaign aims to reach over 40 million young people in Africa with positive messages on the correct use of masks through social media and to combat complacency, fatigue and misunderstanding around COVID-19 prevention measures.
Dr. Moeti said “In the face of COVID-19, complacency can be dangerous”.
“At this critical moment as Africa begins to see an uptick in cases, we need to re-energize and recommit to wearing masks. I know many are finding the public health measures cumbersome, but without action from everyone, Africa risks a new surge in COVID-19 cases”. He added.
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