How Is COVID-19 Worsening Food Insecurity in Mali?

COVID-19 poses threats on food security in Mali.

In Mali, several urban and rural households suffer from food insecurity. Back in March 2020, in the pre-pandemic era, it was anticipated that 3 million Malians (out of 19 million) would be food insecure during the upcoming lean season, which goes from June to August (FewsNet 2020). In light of COVID-19, this is now seen as a very conservative picture. The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened food insecurity in Mali and hit the poor hardest.

About half of the Malian population live with less than $1.90/day. These already poor households have been the hardest hit by the economic fallout of COVID-19. Being most likely to work in the informal sector, with no job security and low pay, they struggle to make a decent living. Under the lockdown restrictions, many were unable to fully engage in their day-to-day earning activities. Without any saving, the confinement translated into less, or even no, cash to buy food.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also disrupted the food supply chain. More border restrictions have led to increased transaction costs and reduced flow of imported staple food (i.e., rice, wheat, sugar, pasta, oils, and powdered milk). Despite tax reduction measures, staple food prices increased by 5 to 15% from January 2020 to June 2020 (PAM 2020). Increased food prices mean lower purchasing power and higher food insecurity for the most vulnerable households.

In response to COVID-19, demand for hygiene and protective products have significantly increased. For example, hydro-alcohol gel product prices went from CFAF 2,000 to FCFA 6500. The pandemic has increased needs for water, soap, and masks that the most vulnerable cannot afford. Being budget constrained, they have to decide between buying hygiene and protective products or food to feed themselves and their family. 

Remittances play a major role in the fight against food insecurity in Mali. A significant number of Malian households depend on them to meet their food needs. Since COVID-19, remittances have sharply dropped due to the decrease in economic activities in the migrants' host countries. The World Bank (2020) anticipates a 23% reduction in remittance flows to Sub-Saharan Africa Regions. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges for the most vulnerable Malian households, whom were already struggling to make ends meet. To tackle immediate problem of feeding households, the Malian government has started to distribute 56,000 tons of cereals to the poor households. In addition to improving the effectiveness of food aid distribution in the short-run, it is important to support long-term investments in the agri-food systems in order to increase production and employment opportunities.

FewsNet. 2020. Mali - Perspectives sur la sécurité alimentaire. Bulletin. Juin 2020 à janvier 2021.

PAM/FAO/FewsNet/Mali Cluster Sécurité Alimentaire. 2020. Suivi de la situation de la sécurité alimentaire et nutritionnelle (SAN) dans le contexte de la pandémie du COVID-19. Bulletin. Numéro 2.

World Bank. 2020. COVID-19 Crisis Through a Migration Lens Migration and Development, Brief 32.

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