FACT N°4 – Women and girls face the food crisis

FACT N°4 – Women and girls face the food crisis
Paper author: 
Aurore Mathieu
Paper publication date: 
Thursday 30 July 2020

From the study: West African women facing COVID

FACT N°4 – Women and girls face the food crisis

Women are historically at the front line in dealing with food crises in West Africa. They are not only in charge of feeding their families, but they also represent an important part of the farming labor force. When a crisis hit, women are the first ones to sacrifice themselves in order for the children and old people to eat first and they are the first ones to limit their food rations. Girls are often at a disadvantage to get food for the benefit of boys.

The COVID-19 crisis had an important impact on impoverished households living in rural areas in West African countries. According to the World Food Programme, the number of people experiencing food insecurity could almost double to reach 57,6 million people by the end of the year, compared to 36 million before the pandemic. Children's high malnutrition could increase by 20% compared to the estimation made at the beginning of the year. The closure of borders and movement restrictions had a terrible impact on cattle’s food and water supply. A lot of households said they had to resort to their crop stores leaving them empty before the dry season. The food prices’ increase pushed women to get less nutritious food preventing them from getting a balanced diet. Food rations were reduced to one meal a day and a lot of households borrowed money from their neighbors, sold off their cattle, or resorted to family solidarity to face income losses. Some clever solutions, such as replacing the soap by ashes, were adopted in order to survive. The closing of schools and the suspension of free school meals could have negative impacts on girls; some studies have shown that these free meal systems have a positive impact on gender equality.

“The COVID-19 is causing a lot of trouble. Feeding my children in the morning has become difficult. We totally depend on milk sales and with the closing of markets, we cannot sell milk anymore. If we do not sell milk, we do not eat.” Kadidia Diallo, a milk producer in Burkina Faso


Regional governments need a plan to quickly tackle the food crisis which is threatening West Africa. Food distributions need to be put in place to support the most vulnerable people and basic commodities should be subsidized. Governments should make sure to assist pastoralist women, often owners of small cattle, through the distribution of cattle feed. All these measures should enable women to participate and reinforce the market system. It is important to make sure that the implemented measures are targeting the urban population as well as the rural population and that information about existing measures be accessible to all. In the long term, it is urgent to secure women’s access to land in order to sustainably guarantee food security and to support family farming.

FACT N°5 – Women face limited representation and participation in decision-making spaces (READ MORE)

FACT N°6 – Women and girls face a lack of access to information (READ MORE)

FACT N°7 – Women and girls face the burden of social norms (READ MORE)

FACT N°1 – Women face disruption to their economic activities (READ MORE)

FACT N°2 – Women and girls face limited access to social services (READ MORE)

FACT N°3 – Women and girls face an increase in their vulnerability and gender-based violence (READ MORE)

Introduction to the study "West African women facing COVID"