Food insecurity in Africa spiked early in COVID-19 pandemic, with limited recovery a year later

This is a set of four line charts showing households reporting mild, moderate and severe food insecurity in Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, and Malawi from April 2020 to June 2021.

At the start of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, global projections indicated the number of people experiencing food insecurity would increase due to the pandemic. In a recent USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) study, researchers used World Bank household survey data collected during the pandemic to assess how real-life experiences with food insecurity changed during the first year of the pandemic in four sub-Saharan Africa countries. Researchers tracked three levels of food insecurity intensity—mild, moderate, and severe—based on household responses to the Food Insecurity Experience Scale, which poses eight questions on a household’s experience with food security. They observed a sharp increase in reported food insecurity in the early months of the pandemic. In Ethiopia and Nigeria, two countries in which data were available from the early months of the pandemic, the rate of moderate food insecurity reported by households increased from about zero to between 30 and 70 percent by June 2020. In Burkina Faso and Malawi, where data was available beyond 2020, researchers observed gradual declines in food insecurity. At the end of June 2021, about 15 percent of households in Burkina Faso still reported moderate food insecurity, as did about 50 percent of Malawi households. This chart appeared in the ERS COVID-19 Working Paper: Food Insecurity During the First Year of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Four African Countries, published in July 2022. For further reading, see USDA ERS - Mali’s Rural-Urban Gap in Food Security Vanished Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic.

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