Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan, China at the end of 2019, the disease has spread across the globe, infecting over four million people and claiming more than 300,000 lives.
Although loss of human life is the most devastating of all, the pandemic is already causing an economic meltdown globally. Its serious impacts are bound to be felt most in the already poor economies. Cities and town, where people live and work in close proximity, are among the worst hit in light of how the disease spreads.
Lockdowns, enforced as one of the ways to curb the spread of the disease, have resulted in an economic downturn, with large numbers of people losing their jobs. In Kenya and Ethiopia, for example, thousands of people in the tourism sector are out of work: drivers, cleaners, tour guides, and security guards at resorts are suddenly not earning as much as before the pandemic.
Others who survive on daily incomes such as those who sell roast corn on the side of the road in Nairobi and street vendors in Addis Ababa are left with nothing to eat on the days they do not sell enough. While a significant number of salaried people have had to adjust to reduced pay, others who are lucky to be still on full salaries are suddenly spending more time at home due to restricted movement.
The urban dwellers are now faced with a looming food crisis as authorities disconnect cities from rural areas to contain the virus, and to protect elderly populations residing in the rural areas. Even with transportation of foodstuff from the rural areas allowed as a special service, there is an anticipated increase in prices.
Restrictions on movement and in severe cases lockdowns, have further reduced transportation significantly. That means there is triple problem here; the virus causing death and havoc, a larger number of people sitting at home without work and a potential food crises in towns because little is being brought from the rural areas.
For countries in eastern Africa, they still have to grapple with the consequences of abnormal rainfall and floods last year which destroyed crops, followed by a locust outbreak which is predicted to come back stronger this growing season. How then do countries in the region deal with such multiple cascading hazards?
While the medical fraternity is doing their fight on the front line, supporting peri-urban farming is another area that would benefit from a plan to tackle the devastating effects outlined above.