By John Okeke
Speaker of the regional Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament, His Excellency Sidie Mohamed Tunis has today Monday 26th October 2020 whilst serving as chair of a high level regional meeting with West and Central Africa parliamentarians on mobilizing parliamentarians and keeping nutrition as a Priority during COVID 19 called on regional law makers to prioritize advocacy on the protection of the right to food.
HE Sidie Mohamed Tunis made this passionate call whilst making his address during the opening and general introduction session of the meeting this morning. He said “this meeting is very timely as early indications coming from research shows that COVID 19 is likely to affect food security and nutrition as movements of farmers are being restricted thus disrupting the chain of production, processing and food supply.”
The Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament furthered that as Members of Parliaments (MPs) they must be seen to vigorously working with their respective governments and non-governmental organizations and UN Agencies so as to ensure quality food intake is maximized during this global pandemic.
As a way of highlighting what they as MPs have done so far to achieve the threshold of food sufficiency in the West Africa region during this COVID 19 period, ECOWAS Parliament Speaker confirmed that some of the parliaments in the West African region, including the one in his home country Sierra Leone have “established the parliamentary alliance on food security and nutrition and have engaged in several capacity building training workshops and activities on right to food, legislative approaches to improving nutrition, school feeding, responsible investment in agriculture and food systems and land tenure for food security, as well as existing legal frameworks for food and nutrition security and gaps.”
Hence, therefore, HE Tunis said due to the capacity building which MPs have undergone, parliamentarians are now in better position to envisage likely impact of COVID 19 on food security and nutrition in their countries and possible areas of policy and legal reforms.
Meanwhile, Dr Namoudou Keita, a representative of the West Africa Health Organisation (WAHO), whilst dilating of the epidemiological situation and easing measures observed in the response to COVID 19 in ECOWAS region confirmed that as at Sunday 25th October 2020, there is 92.7% recovery rate of COVID 19 cases in West Africa. He said out of 187,483 confirmed cases in the region, ECOWAS region has 173,818 recoveries, with 2,739 deaths.
Mohamed Diop, Regional Representative Action Against Hunger West and Central Africa said the success of Africa as a whole in fighting COVID 19 shows that Africans are resilient people. He said “all of our success comes from the fact that we have expertise in fighting diseases pandemic.” He however said that we are fraught with situations of malnutrition which might affect the socio-economic development and growth of our countries. He said, the goal of the workshop is to further mobilize MPs in their efforts on food sufficiency and security during the COVID 19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, a lot of other deliberations where held during the meeting including a session on the situation of COVID 19, impact and resilience of West and Central Africa communities; and another session on the Role and Responsibilities of Parliamentarians and their Innovative Initiatives Supporting National Responses. These sessions were followed by a plenary session on the discussion of all group work and endorsement of the declaration.
The meeting was climaxed by closing remarks of the Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament Honourable Sidie Mohamed Tunis who advised all MPs to work on achieving points made in the declaration. He said his office is always open to assist with whatever is required of him to ensure that malnutrition is curtailed in the region.
The meeting between West and Central Africa parliamentarians on mobilizing parliamentarians and keeping nutrition as a Priority during COVID 19 was conveyed by Action Against Hunger, Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation and a host of other international NGOs and took place by virtual videoconference and comprised of MPs and representatives from nine (9) West and Central Africa countries including: Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Gabon, Ghana, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone.