Are Covid-19 “famine” warnings overblown?

Credit: Keystone/AP/Deepak Sharma

Alarm bells have been ringing for months that COVID-19 could push fragile African countries into a famine of “biblical proportions” as jobs are lost, local markets close, and poverty deepens.

But as an increasing number of African countries ease their punishing lockdowns, ending restrictions on internal travel, relaxing curfews, and reopening schools, aid workers and anecdotal evidence gathered by The New Humanitarian suggest that those projections could be overblown.

Not convinced: “Honestly, I'm not convinced [by the numbers],” said one senior Nairobi-based aid official, who asked not to be named so they could speak freely. “Some of the scenarios by us were done back in March / April and were [calculated] on a much longer lockdown period.”

Aid workers pointed to the deeper, existing problems of conflict and economic crisis, and emphasising the need not to lose focus on those core issues.

“We're trying to return to normal, but it will be a new normal,” said Jeremy Taylor, advocacy adviser for East Africa for the Norwegian Refugee Council.

“Some of the development gains of recent years may have been lost, and we don't know yet what the multilayered impacts of the pandemic will look like.

“The new normal might be more difficult, more complicated than the past.”

For the full analysis from The New Humanitarian, read here .