By Alhaji Haruna Sani
As high cost of food increases hunger in Sierra Leone, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has supported the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) with US$3.2 million to help tackle irregular access to safe and nutritious food.
In a press release issued on 30th January WFP welcomed the US$3.2 million from the USAID to provide emergency food and development assistance to 68,000 women, men, and children in Sierra Leone, where four out of five households have irregular access to safe and nutritious food.
“Sierra Leone imports a large quantity of its food, and with the global food and fuel crisis, compounded by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, poor households have not been spared” said Yvonne Forsén, WFP’s Country Representative and Director “Inflation has also meant that people now buy fewer commodities from their income, which is increasing hunger levels”, the release reads.
WFP promised that with the new funding, it will provide emergency cash transfers to the worst-hit communities, expand homegrown school feeding, and support agricultural efforts to strengthen people’s resilience.
According to the WFP, some 40,000 people in Port Loko, Tonkolili and Pujehun districts will receive mobile money to meet their immediate food needs. Elsewhere, WFP will provide cash to 30 more schools in Kambia and Pujehun districts to buy fresh vegetables and the highly nutritious sweet potato directly from small-scale farmers for 6,400 children.
WFP also promised to provide agricultural equipment for small-scale farming communities and Mother Support Groups in Falaba, Koinadugu, Tonkolili, Kambia, Moyamba and Pujehun districts to clear more land, process rice and produce feed for poultry enterprises. Some 95 farmer groups managing Village Loans and Savings (VLS) schemes will receive training in financial management.
“The United States of America is committed to supporting all the people of Sierra Leone in achieving human development and we are encouraged that this funding will benefit entire communities including school children and small-scale farmers,” the American Ambassador, David Reimer, said.
”This contribution underscores our desire to invest in the local economies through school feeding and agriculture and stimulate community-led systems that can break the cycle of hunger and malnutrition” Reimer added.
The Food Security Monitoring System analysis of August 2022 found that 81 percent households in Sierra Leone were unable to meet their basic food and nutrition needs. Of these, 15 percent were severely food insecure, requiring emergency food assistance.
Data from the joint government and WFP market monitoring also shows that the price of imported rice, the staple food in Sierra Leone, rose by 40 percent between January and October 2022 while that of locally produced crop almost doubled, forcing most households to expend over 75 percent of their incomes on food.
The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.