“(The pandemic) has made a bad situation worse,” said program manager Stefan Epp-Koop.
“Many of these countries have conflict or political instability, high levels of displacement — people being forced to leave their homes — environmental disasters or economic collapse,” he told the Co-operator.
The Humanitarian, Early Recovery and Development program will serve about 89,000 people in Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and South Sudan, the Foodgrains Bank said in a news release.
In the emergency response phase of the program, Foodgrains Bank partners will bring households emergency food, cash or vouchers they can redeem at local markets.
Partner organizations speak with people in their communities to see what will help them best, said Epp-Koop. In some cases, markets are open and food is readily available if families have cash for purchases. In more remote areas, food access is limited because public transportation has become much more expensive. Families may prefer to get food directly instead of buying it themselves and paying to bring it home, Epp-Koop said.
Some farmers will receive agriculture inputs and training, the Foodgrains Bank said. Epp-Koop explained that market disruptions made inputs less available, and people have lost savings they might ordinarily use to buy inputs.
People have lost jobs and remittance income from family members working out of the country, he added. Markets and borders closed, making it more difficult to sell products.
While some restrictions have loosened, “The damage was done, even if some of those markets are returning, people are still struggling to get back on their feet,” Epp-Koop said.
Relief efforts will include hiring community members to do projects that will benefit their neighbours, like building earthworks for soil and water conservation, said Epp-Koop. This provides the communities long-term benefits while giving people income.
Epp-Koop added that the pandemic is very much not over for many of these African countries where vaccine access is a fraction of what’s available in countries like Canada and the United States.