By Abdul Malik Bangura
Speaker of the regional Parliament of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) His Excellency Sidie Mohamed Tunis has confirmed that the parliament has realized the reality of a region that has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
HE Tunis made this disclosure during the opening session of the delocalized meeting of the ECOWAS Parliament joint committee on Agriculture, Environment and natural Resources; Industry and Private Sector; Health; Energy and Mines; Social Affairs, Gender and Women Empowerment which is currently ongoing in Bissau, Republic of Guinea Bissau.
Whilst making his statement on the theme “ECOWAS food security and agriculture production program and the fight against COVID 19,” HE Tunis noted that even before the global COVID-19 pandemic, Food Security was a serious concern throughout sub-Saharan Africa. He said “this chronic food crises was driven by a variety of factors, including economic shocks, climate change and conflicts, which have led to a state of food scarcity.”
The ECOWAS Parliament Speaker added that “border closures, lockdowns and curfews intended to slow the spread of the disease, have disrupted supply chains that, even under normal circumstances, struggled to keep markets well stocked and farmers supplied with necessary agricultural and livestock inputs. These disruptions could have a much larger economic impact on our region, with the United Nations estimating that well over 40 million people across West Africa could face desperate food shortages in the coming months.”
Furthermore, the Speaker acknowledged the efforts made by ECOWAS Member States, the ECOWAS Commission and other regional and multinational organizations to have the looming danger of COVID 19 addressed. He referenced the establishment of Presidential Committees and Task Forces, as well as regional and global responses, which he said “are all worth commending as it is expected that our concerted efforts will save lives, contain the spread of the virus, provide palliatives for vulnerable populations. Furthermore, it will also provide support systems to cushion the national and local economies and development of safety nets amongst others.”
Speaker Tunis also added that ECOWAS, through the West African Health Organization (WAHO), has been very active in ensuring that regional response to the COVID-19 pandemic is adequate and well-coordinated. He said, “the procurement and provision of much needed supplies to member states, including diagnostic kits, viral transport media, and personal protective equipment were efforts aimed at ensuring that we tackle the pandemic head on.” Hence, he commended the Director General of WAHO, “who has graciously accepted to deliver a paper in the course of this meeting and explain in-depth all the efforts ECOWAS and her Partners have exerted to stop the spread of the disease.”
“ECOWAS Parliament, being an integral player in this fight, supports the ECOWAS Commission in achieving its objectives. It equally recognizes the negative impact of COVID-19 on agricultural production and productivity, as well as food and nutrition security in our population. As such, we have convened this meeting to identify means by which we can be able to support and compliment the work of the ECOWAS Commission in mitigating the negative impact of COVID-19 on agricultural production and food security in the region,” the Speaker noted.
Meanwhile, during the opening session, Soares Shambu, the Vice Prime Minister of Guinea Bissau who represented the President of the Republic whilst making his statement noted that the world is experiencing the 2nd wave of COVID 19 as such he stated that since we have not ended the 1st wave, the 2nd wave will cause more severe economic and social problems.
Mr Shambu urged all to find ways to mitigate the adverse effect of the COVID 19 pandemic, considering how vulnerable the West Africa Region is.
Another speaker who delved into theme of the opening session of the meeting was the Political and Diplomatic Counsellor of the ECOWAS Commission, Ambassador Emmanuel Ohin, who represented the President of the ECOWAS Commission Jean Claude Kassi Brou. Ambassador Ohin said meetings of this nature will enhance visibility of ECOWAS, and further maintain acceptance of ECOWAS not only by the states but also by the people. He said, the decision to come to Bissau is a show of solidarity between the ECOWAS Parliament and the People National Assembly of Guinea Bissau. He assured that ECOWAS is always ready to support development of democracy in Guinea Bissau.
On his part, the Co-Chair of the Joint Committee, Honourable Orlando Pereira Dias said they will work closely with the People National Assembly of Guinea Bissau to ensure that the people of Guinea Bissau greatly benefit from the deliberations that are going to take place during the meeting sessions. He thanked the people of Bissau for the hospitality given to the delegation so far.
Meanwhile, earlier in the opening session, whilst welcoming delegates, Leader of Parliamentarians of Guinea Bissau to the ECOWAS Parliament Honourable Kalifa Sidi stressed that almost half of West Africa population lives below the poverty threshold. So he said, as a result, they rely on agriculture for employment and for survival. He expressed optimism that the coming working days would be productive so as to overcome the challenges fraught with agricultural production in the ECOWAS region during the COVID 19 period.
Meanwhile, it is worth to noting that the regional Parliament of the ECOWAS under the distinguished leadership of its Speaker, His Excellency Sidie Mohamed Tunis is conveying a meeting of joint committees on Agriculture, Environment, Water Resources and Sustainable Development/ Industry and Private Sector/ Health/ Energy and Mines/ Social Affairs, Gender and Women Empowerment between Tuesday 10th to Saturday 14th November 2020 to discuss the most vital theme of “ECOWAS food security and agriculture production program and the fight against COVID 19.”