Many West African countries have been struggling with the indirect effects of COVID-19, hunger being the worst of the side-effects that the pandemic brought on. Togo is one of these nations facing an escalating death rate due to the indirect results of COVID-19 such as hunger and malnutrition. Here is some information about the increased hunger in Togo.
Causes of Hunger in Togo
The decrease in demand for phosphate contributed to Togo’s economic struggles. Phosphate is a natural resource that the country produces abundantly. For the majority of the 19th century, Togo’s economy depended on the rare mineral, but since the early 2000s, phosphate prices have gone up and the sales have gone down. Thus, the republic is now agriculture-dependent, like many of its neighbors.
Due to the quick shift between the two sectors, the agricultural aspect of the economy does not receive adequate support. In fact, only 16% of farms in Togo currently use fertilizers, meaning that they do not function optimally. Farms also only make up 2% of bank loans nationwide, which shows that farmers are not investing in technology to improve their business longterm. For the Togolese Republic, agriculture maintains nearly 40% of the economy. This field did not have the preparation for so many to be economically dependent on it, which is one of the reasons why 58% of the Togolese population live in poverty.
The Environment and Hunger
In the past 10 years, droughts in Togo have worsened significantly, with rainfall decreasing by 2.4% per decade and temperature increasing by 1.1°C in the last half a century. While these numbers may not seem high, they have a significant negative consequence on the success of agriculture. A 2°C increase in temperature, which predictions determine could occur by 2050, could create a decrease of 62.02% in the net revenue of the nation and put an even higher percentage of the population under the poverty line and into the malnourished category. An increase in the number of floods has further subdued agricultural progress.
Hunger in Togo Statistics
With impoverishment comes hunger. Togo is 81 out of 117 countries on the Global Hunger Index. As of now, 16.1% of the population experiences undernourishment. The Togolese Republic had decreased its hunger rates from 32% back in 2001. It has successfully stabilized its depth of hunger rates, with average nutrition being around 280 kilocalories and consistently lower than that of a healthy population for the last decade. Yet, to this day, nearly 30% of children under the age of 5 experience chronic malnourishment, with spikes of up to 43% in the Savannah region, where the dry, hot climate drastically worsens hunger and poverty.
Side Effects of Hunger
Although hunger in itself is a major human rights issue, there are many side effects of hunger and malnutrition that put the population at a further disadvantage. Poor cognitive development in children, diabetes and growth stunts are all severe byproducts of population malnutrition. The effects of hunger on mental health are just as devastating. Parents of malnourished children are 53.1% more likely to go through depression and 56.2% more likely to have PTSD.
These side effects can drastically decrease productivity in both the parents and the children once the children grow up, thus furthering the poverty and hunger in the family. It is arduous for governments to control hunger in the population as when it is so widespread. In fact, malnourished workers can further worsen the economy leading to more hungry citizens. Some believe that the estimated cost of malnutrition to the global economy is around $3.5 trillion per year.
Effects of COVID-19 on Hunger
The current global pandemic has negatively affected nearly every country in the world, but it seems that West African countries like Togo will struggle much more economically. The disease severely impacted Togo’s agriculture season. With enforced social distancing and curfews, limits on working hours and enforced policies on markets and sellers, farmers have experienced economic challenges. Environmental challenges have already been decreasing the success of farming in the West African region but the pandemic might have even worse effects. The closing of schools also meant that many children who relied on in-school meal plans, now have no access to nutrition.
Fighting Hunger in Togo
As previously highlighted, without government intervention, high rates of hunger in a population after time lead to even higher rates of hunger; therefore, it is economically beneficial for the government to involve itself. Yet, the Togolese government has not made the proper investment into agriculture or hunger initiatives over the past decade.
The World Food Programme (WFP) has been one of the main actors dealing with the issue of hunger in Togo. WFP has been present in Togo since 1968 and is currently participating in three main projects to help the country: United Nations SDG 2030 Fund, WFP Immediate Response Account (IRA) for emergency preparedness activity in Togo and U.N. Country Team (UNCT) for food assistance to those who experienced floods in the Togo maritime region. WFP has been working on increasing and improving food production strategies across the territory, providing technical and financial assistance to farms and training 95 national actors from northern Togo on a joint quick assessment of humanitarian needs after a catastrophe. WFP has also introduced food-for-work projects in the region, in which citizens receive nourishment for participating in reforestation or improvement of roads.
In order to help the Togolese government respond to COVID-19 properly, WFP has not only been providing food to those the pandemic has affected but also collecting data from 2,180 households about food security. However, the virus has now delayed many of WFP’s projects.
Although hunger has been rising drastically over the last couple of months globally, social response and aid have also been on the rise. Hunger in Togo will likely increase in 2020, but given the work of NGOs such as WFP, the citizens of Togo will hopefully receive the aid they need.
– Anna Synakh