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.
36 Million Electricity Meters To Be Installed in Nigeria
Nigeria’s Federal Government plans to install over 36 million electricity meters across the country by the end of the second quarter of 2021.
These efforts according to government, will restore confidence and trust in the power sector as consumers of electricity would no longer be extorted through an estimated billing system that does not match consumption.
Speaking at the inspection of the meter testing facility of the Nigerian Electricity Management Services Agency (NEMSA) in Enugu, the Minister of State Power, Gody Jeddy Agba, expressed satisfaction at the level of work and installation of state-of-the-art equipment that will process durability and certify fit for use all electricity meters imported into the country.
Agba said the power sector reforms of the present administration have to deal with new methods of boosting generation, transmission and distribution. He said adequate power supply in the country will translate to statistical economic growth and development of the gross domestic product GDP, which is all time high within the last one month.
The Minister said the NEMSA plant and testing facility in Enugu is one of the strategy implementation plans of the federal government to discard mediocrity and lack of competence in handling government business, especially at a time the country has to play a vital and pivotal role in the African economy.
“The benefits that accrue from the planned inauguration of the meter testing plant and facility stem from the fact that substandard meters that are inflammable will be eliminated from circulation, economic dumping of inferior goods by other countries as practiced in the past will no longer be tolerated by the authorities concerned, and above all, the estimated billing system will come with a penalty to whoever served the bill to consumers,” he said.
At the event in Enugu, the Minister said he came to see the level of preparedness of NEMSA to commence operations urgently, in compliance with the federal government directives that 36 million electricity consumers in Nigeria must be metered before the end of quarter two in 2021.
Agba stressed that the federal government’s commitment and concern for the power sector is unwavering, amidst financial constraints, but determined to ensure that the power sector is revamped and resuscitated to give a corresponding growth to the manufacturing and industrial sub-sectors of the economy, comparing the global growth of some sectors in countries with adequate power supply.
NEMSA chief electrical officer of the federation and managing director, Peter Ewosa, declared that all electricity meters imported into the country must be tested at the point of entry to certify their technical fitness before installation.
Ewosa said the meter testing station was established as a quality control mechanism for the power sector to thrive, in line with the mandate of the agency which states clearly that no meter can be deployed or installed and put into use until it has been tested and seen to have met the requirements and technical capability set by the Nigerian government.
“Every country has its technical requirements and standard specifications for any equipment that is publicly or privately put into use, therefore, any meter that does not pass through the agency cannot be installed either at homes, offices and factories,” said Ewosa.
Polytechnics Remain Shut as FG, ASUP’s Hits Wall
ASUP had declared an indefinite strike last Tuesday over alleged poor funding and neglect of the institutions.
However, the union has kicked against the appointment of principal officers for the six new federal polytechnics.
When THISDAY sought for an update on the ongoing strike, the President of ASUP, Mr. Anderson Ezeibe, said the union had not been invited for negotiations by the federal government.
He said since the last meeting they held on Tuesday with the Federal Ministry of Education, which yielded no positive outcome, the union had not been invited for talks again.
“You know we held a meeting with the Federal Ministry of Education last Tuesday but since that time, all we have been hearing was that there will be meeting but we are yet to get an invitation,” he added.
Also, it was gathered from a source at the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment that the ministry can only wade into the matter if the Ministry of Education refers the issue to it for conciliation.
However, the dispute has deepened as ASUP has kicked against the appointments of rectors and other principal officers for the six new federal polytechnics, saying it did not meet the required standards.
In a statement by Ezeibe, the union said: “Our union’s attention has been drawn to a recent press statement from the Federal Ministry of Education announcing the appointment of rectors and other principal officers for the six new federal polytechnics situated in Enugu, Oyo, Cross River, Plateau, Borno and Benue states.”
The union stated that the appointments violated provisions of the Federal Polytechnics (Amendment) Act, 2019, adding that five out of the six new rectors were not qualified for the position having fallen short of the requirements captured in Section 8, 2 (a) (i )of the Act.
Ezeibe said the profiles of the appointees showed that five out of the six persons did not fit into the requirements of the law for the appointment of rectors in federal polytechnics.
According to him, these beneficiaries include the appointees for federal polytechnics Ohodo (Enugu), Ugep (Cross River), Shendam (Plateau), Monguno (Borno), and Wannune (Benue) .
“It is regrettable that the government, through officials of the Federal Ministry of Education has become principal violators of the laws governing the operations of Nigerian polytechnics.
“This latest assault is despite the contents of a recent ruling of the National Industrial Court in Abuja where the provisions of the Federal Polytechnics (Amendment) Act, 2019 was affirmed by the court and the Federal Ministry of Education and her officials undertaking to observe the provisions in totality.
“Despite the contents of the judgment of the court in NICN/ABJ/12/2020 involving our union and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Minister for Education and five others in a similar issue, our union had drawn the attention of the Federal Ministry of Education on the need to adhere to the provisions of the law in this appointment process more than a month before this recent naked display of impunity,” he added.
Ezeibe said part of the union’s current engagement with the government was to reverse the trend of administering polytechnics outside extant laws and regulations.
2021 WASSCE To Hold August/ September
The West African Examinations Council, Nigeria, says the 2021 West African Senior School Certificate Examination will commence in August and not May.
WAEC also debunked reports by some news platforms that it postponed the examination.
In a statement on Friday, Acting Head, Public Affairs, WAEC, Nigeria, Demianus Ojijeogu, said WAEC Nigeria Head, Patrick Areghan, was quoted out of context at a briefing on Tuesday when he announced the release of results of WASSCE for private candidate
According to Ojijeogu, Areghan said the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic has distorted the academic calendars of schools, hence, it will be impossible for candidates to sit for the examination in May because most of the schools are still in their first term
The statement was titled, ‘Conduct Of WASSCE For School Candidates, 2021 In Nigeria’.
The statement said Areghan had at the Tuesday briefing said, “Let me also use this opportunity to dispel rumours being peddled about by some people regarding the conduct of WASSCE for School Candidates, 2021. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are still very much felt in the education sector
“The academic calendar has been distorted. It will, therefore, not be possible to have the examination in May/June this year. A convenient International Timetable for the conduct of the examination will soon be released.”
The statement added, “The arrangement is in line with the current academic calendar and was done in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Education
“Consequently, the Council wishes to inform schools, candidates and the general public that the examination will hold from August 16, 2021 to September 30, 2021. The International timetable for the conduct of the examination will be released in due course.”
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