Madagascar – HungerMapLIVE: Year in Review: Food Insecurity in 2021, January 2022

The HungerMapLIVE tracks core indicators of acute hunger in real-time, including indicators of household food consumption, livelihood changes and other contextual factors. The HungerMapLIVE also tracks key drivers of food insecurity, such as conflict,

COVID-19 and climate variability. This Year in Review details the food security situation in Madagascar and how it evolved over the course of 2021.

Source: World Food Programme

WFP Madagascar Cyclone Response Update (As of 26 February 2022, 20:00 EAT)

Highlights

• BNGRC situation update on the impact of cyclone Emnati – 25 February 21:00 (temporary numbers):

o Six persons reported dead.

o 101,205 persons affected (28,316 households).

o 44,196 displaced persons (9,882 households) across 101 accommodation sites in 12 regions:

AMORON’I MANIA, ANDROY, ANOSY, ATSIMO ANDREFANA, ATSIMO ATSINANANA, ATSINANANA, FITOVINANY, IHOROMBE, MATSIATRA AMBONY, SOFIA, VAKINANKARATRA and VATOVAVY.

• The passage of Emnati in the South has affected WFP operations as supply roads have been temporarily cut off and some areas of intervention are currently harder to reach. In addition, the cyclone has destroyed two mobile storage units (MSUs) at WFP’s logistics base in Amboasary and caused light damage to another eight MSUs. However, no major food loss has been registered. Close to none or minimal damages notified in other WFP bases in Tamatave, Ampanihy, Fort Dauphin, Mananjary and Bekily.

• A delegation headed by HE the President of the Republic with the participation of the UK ambassador, USAID director, UN Resident Coordinator, WFP Representative was able to visit today areas affected areas by cyclone Batsirai in Anosibe a’nala and Anatanamboa Manapotsy thanks to the UNHAS helicopter.

Source: World Food Programme

EU to Finance Weapons Purchases For Ukraine, Ban Russian Media

The European Union plans to take the unprecedented step of funding weapons purchases for Ukraine, EU officials said on Feb. 27 as the bloc announced a raft of new sanctions in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The EU’s plan to fund weapons purchases will use millions of euros to help buy air-defense systems, anti-tank weapons, ammunition and other military equipment for Ukraine’s armed forces. It would also supply things like fuel, protective gear, helmets and first-aid kits.

“For the first time ever, the European Union will finance the purchase and delivery of weapons and other equipment to a country that is under attack,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said of the weapons purchases, calling it a “watershed moment.”

Von der Leyen expects the measure to be endorsed by EU leaders along with other significant moves — a ban on pro-Kremlin media outlets RT and Sputnik, the closure of EU airspace to Russian planes, and sanctions against Belarus.

She said RT and Sputnik are part of the “Kremlin’s media machine,” and the EU is “developing tools to ban their toxic and harmful disinformation in Europe,” von der Leyen said.

They will “no longer be able to spread their lies to justify Putin’s war and to sow division in our union,” von der Leyen said.

The closure of the EU’s airspace comes after many individual European countries along with Britain and Canada announced they would ban Russian planes. The EU airspace ban will prohibit flights into or over the EU by “every Russian plane — and that includes the private jets of oligarchs,” von der Leyen said.

The EU also will hit Russian ally Belarus with sanctions for facilitating the invasion. The regime of Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka had been “complicit in the vicious attack against Ukraine,” von der Leyen said.

New restrictive measures will hit Belarus’s most important sectors, including tobacco, wood, cement, iron and steel.

The measures come on top of EU sanctions announced Feb. 26, including cutting some Russian banks from the SWIFT interbank messaging network, banning all transactions with Russia’s central bank, and added restrictions on Russian oligarchs.

The measures also follow Germany’s decision to commit 100 billion euros ($113 billion) to a special armed forces fund and to keep its defense spending above 2% of GDP from now on.

Source: Voice of America

African Health Authorities Meet in Nigeria, Discuss Vaccination Goals

African health authorities are calling for better coordination to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are distributed quickly to all African nations.

Vaccine supplies have surpassed demand for the first time since the pandemic began two years ago. But health officials at a conference in Nigeria said Wednesday that a lack of refrigeration and poor infrastructure were major challenges for vaccine equity.

The African Union’s Vaccine Delivery Alliance organized the conference to highlight hurdles many African countries face delivering COVID-19 vaccines to their citizens.

Tian Johnson, an AU community engagement official, said, “What we see before us through the magnifying glass of COVID-19 are the fruits of decades of deprioritizing health at country levels. The fact remains, as Africans we must be absolutely sure that we leave no one behind.”

About 20 percent of Africa’s 1.2 billion people have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, a poor record compared with those of many Western nations, where vaccination rates are at 70 percent or better.

Lack of infrastructure

Many African countries, including Nigeria, lack the infrastructure and cooling systems to store vaccines in large quantities.

Last year, up to 1 million doses of COVID vaccines expired in Nigeria, the highest single number in any country.

Officials said the vaccination gap is made worse by lack of funding, which limits African countries’ ability to properly receive and distribute vaccines.

A February publication by COVAX — the global vaccine program supported by the WHO and Gavi — showed low-income countries requested only 100 million doses of vaccines out of 436 million doses available.

In Nigeria, where only about 6 percent of people are vaccinated, authorities also have been battling widespread vaccine hesitancy, which authorities partly blame for the low inoculation rate.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said at the Vaccine Delivery Alliance conference, “Global solidarity and proactive leadership is the only way we will beat this virus. This high-level summit calls for greater solidarity and for the world to hear Africa’s voice on how we can beat the virus together.”

Buhari said authorities were accelerating vaccinations in Nigeria to save lives and kick-start economic recovery.

Vaccine production

The World Health Organization last week said Nigeria and five other African countries would be the first on the continent to begin local production of COVID-19 vaccines. The WHO said training for vaccine production could begin in a matter of weeks.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, one of the speakers at Wednesday’s conference, said, “WHO and our partners are working day and night to address the bottlenecks that remain in partnership with countries. We are on ground to do whatever it takes to reach country goals, not only on vaccines but for testing and treatment.”

Experts say until Africa is largely vaccinated against the virus, the world will remain unsafe.

Source: Voice of America

Teenage COVID-19 Vaccination Process Meets Resistance in Malawi

Malawi’s government says is registering low numbers of teenagers taking the COVID-19 vaccine. This is largely because parents and guardians are reluctant to give consent to have their children get the shot.

Malawi started administering the Pfizer vaccine to children ages 12 to 17 on January 1st to help contain the spread of the coronavirus among children.

Vaccination of teens requires health care providers to seek consent from parents.

Statistics show that fewer than 4,000 children were vaccinated as of Saturday, a figure health authorities said was not impressive.

The low response is blamed on parents refusing to give consent to health workers.

Mailesi Mhango is the district coordinator for the Expanded Program on Immunization in the Ministry of Health.

She says reluctance is more prevalent for children who go to public or government schools, where none of the youngsters has so far been vaccinated.

“For the privately owned schools, the response is better compared to government-run schools. I don’t know why. But for private schools, at least there is a positive response; many schools are booking us. ‘Can you come and vaccinate our learners?’ So, we are going to such schools and vaccinating them,” she said.

Willy Malimba, the president of the Teachers’ Union of Malawi, says it is a non-starter to expect teenage students to get the COVID-19 shot in schools.

“This time around, even when the government can decide to go to school to vaccinate learners, I am sure that school can be immediately closed because the learners, even the teachers will run away, unless they are fully sensitized. Otherwise, they are taking this issue as a negative issue because of the coming of this vaccine; it came with negatives,” he said.

Malimba recounts incidents where students have run away from suspected providers of the vaccine.

“Even myself I have been experiencing some situations whereby I was going to certain schools and when learners saw my car, they ran away and I was told from the head teachers that the learners are running away because they think that we are coming with the vaccine,” he said.

Government statistics show that only about 7.3 % of about 20 million people in Malawi are fully vaccinated, far from the required 60% to reach herd immunity.

The low uptake is largely attributed to myths that link COVID-19 vaccine to infertility and allegations that the vaccine is the government’s ploy to reduce the population.

In a statement Saturday, the co-chairperson for the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Dr. Wilfred Chalamira Nkhoma, urged all parents and guardians to get their children aged 12 years and above inoculated.

He said doing so will protect these children from severe disease and hospitalization, even if they do become infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.

Some parents say they are not ready for that at the moment.

Lindiwe Mwale, a mother of three children, two of them teenagers, is among the parents concerned.

She spoke via a messaging application from her home in Chiwembe Township in Blantyre.

“I am a parent who has vaccinated them before [with] other vaccines which are there, but for this one [COVID-19 vaccine] I really would not want to risk them by getting them vaccinated by a vaccine which is currently on trial. After all, the COVID-19 is not greatly affecting people of that age; many of them make it,” she said.

Mwale, who is vaccinated, also says with a drop in cases in Malawi, from about 700 daily cases previously to now 80 cases as of Saturday, she feels the pandemic poses no threat that would warrant vaccination of her children.

Health authorities say they are now planning to meet the parents and teachers and educate them on the importance of having children vaccinated against COVID-19.

Source: Voice of America

US Shoppers Find Some Groceries Scarce Due to Virus, Weather

Benjamin Whitely headed to a Safeway supermarket in Washington D.C. on Tuesday to grab some items for dinner. But he was disappointed to find the vegetable bins barren and a sparse selection of turkey, chicken and milk.

“Seems like I missed out on everything,” Whitely, 67, said. “I’m going to have to hunt around for stuff now.”

Shortages at U.S. grocery stores have grown more acute in recent weeks as new problems — like the fast-spreading omicron variant and severe weather — have piled on to the supply chain struggles and labor shortages that have plagued retailers since the coronavirus pandemic began.

The shortages are widespread, impacting produce and meat as well as packaged goods such as cereal. And they’re being reported nationwide. U.S. groceries typically have 5% to 10% of their items out of stock at any given time; right now, that unavailability rate is hovering around 15%, according to Consumer Brands Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman.

Part of the scarcity consumers are seeing on store shelves is due to pandemic trends that never abated – and are exacerbated by omicron. Americans are eating at home more than they used to, especially since offices and some schools remain closed.

The average U.S. household spent $144 per week at the grocery last year, according to FMI, a trade organization for groceries and food producers. That was down from the peak of $161 in 2020, but still far above the $113.50 that households spent in 2019.

A deficit of truck drivers that started building before the pandemic also remains a problem. The American Trucking Associations said in October that the U.S. was short an estimated 80,000 drivers, a historic high.

And shipping remains delayed, impacting everything from imported foods to packaging that is printed overseas.

Retailers and food producers have been adjusting to those realities since early 2020, when panic buying at the start of the pandemic sent the industry into a tailspin. Many retailers are keeping more supplies of things like toilet paper on hand, for example, to avoid acute shortages.

“All of the players in the supply chain ecosystem have gotten to a point where they have that playbook and they’re able to navigate that baseline level of challenges,” said Jessica Dankert, vice president of supply chain at the Retail Industry Leaders Association, a trade group.

Generally, the system works; Dankert notes that bare shelves have been a rare phenomenon over the last 20 months. It’s just that additional complications have stacked up on that baseline at the moment, she said.

As it has with staffing at hospitals, schools and offices, the omicron variant has taken a toll on food production lines. Sean Connolly, the president and CEO of Conagra Brands, which makes Birds Eye frozen vegetables, Slim Jim meat snacks and other products, told investors last week that supplies from the company’s U.S. plants will be constrained for at least the next month due to omicron-related absences.

Worker illness is also impacting grocery stores. Stew Leonard Jr. is president and CEO of Stew Leonard’s, a supermarket chain that operates stores in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey. Last week, 8% of his workers – around 200 people – were either out sick or in quarantine. Usually, the level of absenteeism is more like 2%.

One store bakery had so many people out sick that it dropped some of its usual items, like apple crumb cake. Leonard says meat and produce suppliers have told him they are also dealing with omicron-related worker shortages.

Still, Leonard says he is generally getting shipments on time, and thinks the worst of the pandemic may already be over.

Weather-related events, from snowstorms in the Northeast to wildfires in Colorado, also have impacted product availability and caused some shoppers to stock up more than usual, exacerbating supply problems caused by the pandemic.

Lisa DeLima, a spokesperson for Mom’s Organic Market, an independent grocer with locations in the mid-Atlantic region, said the company’s stores did not have produce to stock last weekend because winter weather halted trucks trying to get from Pennsylvania to Washington.

That bottleneck has since been resolved, DeLima said. In her view, the intermittent dearth of certain items shoppers see now are nothing compared to the more chronic shortages at the beginning of the pandemic.

“People don’t need to panic buy,” she said. “There’s plenty of product to be had. It’s just taking a little longer to get from point A to point B.”

Experts are divided on how long grocery shopping will sometimes feel like a scavenger hunt.

Dankert thinks this is a hiccup, and the country will soon settle back to more normal patterns, albeit with continuing supply chain headaches and labor shortages.

“You’re not going to see long-term outages of products, just sporadic, isolated incidents __ that window where it takes a minute for the supply chain to catch up,” she said.

But others aren’t so optimistic.

Freeman, of the Consumer Brands Association, says omicron-related disruptions could expand as the variant grips the Midwest, where many big packaged food companies like Kellogg Co. and General Mills Inc. have operations.

Freeman thinks the federal government should do a better job of ensuring that essential food workers get access to tests. He also wishes there were uniform rules for things like quarantining procedures for vaccinated workers; right now, he said, companies are dealing with a patchwork of local regulations.

“I think, as we’ve seen before, this eases as each wave eases. But the question is, do we have to be at the whims of the virus, or can we produce the amount of tests we need?” Freeman said.

In the longer term, it could take groceries and food companies a while to figure out the customer buying patterns that emerge as the pandemic ebbs, said Doug Baker, vice president of industry relations for food industry association FMI.

“We went from a just-in-time inventory system to unprecedented demand on top of unprecedented demand,” he said. “We’re going to be playing with that whole inventory system for several years to come.”

In the meantime, Whitely, the Safeway customer in Washington, said he’s lucky he’s retired because he can spend the day looking for produce if the first stores he tries are out. People who have to work or take care of sick loved ones don’t have that luxury, he said.

“Some are trying to get food to survive. I’m just trying to cook a casserole,” he said.

Source: Voice of America

WFP Madagascar Country Brief, November 2021

In Numbers

461,500 beneficiaries with in-kind food assistance and 175,465 beneficiaries through cash transfers under WFP drought response in southern Madagascar

US$ 64.9 million six-month net funding requirements for emergency response (January – June 2022)

820,000 people assisted across all activities in November 2021

Operational Updates

Drought Situation

Madagascar continues to face the consequences of the most severe drought since 1981, affecting most of the areas in the south, including Atsimo Andrefana region, the breadbasket of the GrandSud, and resulting in a severe humanitarian crisis.

Preliminary results from the latest food security and malnutrition IPC analyses conducted in November show that while the number of people in IPC 4 has not augmented, the number of people in IPC 3 has increased from 730,000 to over a million since the previous IPC results released in April 2021. Overall, the initial findings highlight a steady deterioration of the food security situation over the past year with 1.47 million people in IPC 3 and above as per the latest IPC analysis compared to 1.14 million and 1.06 million people in IPC 3 and above for the previous IPC analyses respectively conducted in April 2021 and December 2020.

Food availability is considered lower than normal in most markets in the south due to the poor harvest registered earlier this year as well as limited imported products. With the lean season, both the diversity and market availability of local food staples are decreasing, because of the meager production from the latest harvest. Food inflation is estimated at 8% and is mainly driven by poor agricultural production, high transportation costs, and the lasting negative impact of mitigation measures against COVID-19.

Source: World Food Programme

Omicron Spreading Rapidly as Answers on Risk Remain Elusive

The World Health Organization says new data is emerging every day about the potential impact of the new omicron variant on the coronavirus pandemic, but that it is premature to draw conclusions about the severity of the infection.

Since omicron was detected two weeks ago in South Africa, it has spread rapidly to 57 countries. The World Health Organization says certain features of the new coronavirus variant, including its global speed and large number of mutations, suggest it could have a major impact on the evolution of the pandemic.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says omicron appears to be extremely contagious, with cases in South Africa rising more quickly than the delta variant. That indicates an increased risk of re-infection with omicron, he says, but adds that more data is needed to draw firmer conclusions.

“There is also some evidence that omicron causes milder diseases than delta,” he said. “But again, it is still too early to be definitive. Any complacency now will cost lives. Many of those who do not die could be left battling long COVID or post-COVID condition.”

Tedros says governments and individuals must act now and use all the tools available. He says all governments should re-assess and revise their national plans based on their current situation and capacity.

“Accelerate vaccine coverage in the most at-risk populations in all countries, intensify efforts to drive transmission down and keep it down with a tailored mix of public health measures,” he said. “Scale up surveillance, testing, and sequencing and share samples with the international community.”

The WHO chief is urging nations to avoid what he calls the kind of ineffective and discriminatory travel bans that were slapped on southern African countries days after they reported the presence of the omicron variant.

New evidence, however, reveals that omicron was present in western Europe before the first cases in southern Africa were officially identified.

The WHO is warning that governments are likely to withhold important scientific information if they believe they will be punished for being transparent.

The message may be getting through. Tedros notes that France and Switzerland have lifted their travel bans on southern Africa. He is urging other countries to follow their lead.

Source: Voice of America