The United Nations World Food Programme has reached an agreement with South Africa to create a humanitarian corridor allowing food aid to continue to reach Southern African countries as governments around the continent lock down their borders to slow the spread of COVID-19. Up to 45 million people in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Namibia, and Botswana have been facing food shortages, exacerbated by a persistent drought and two cyclones that struck the region last year. About US$400 million was required for food distributions over the next three months, but, depending on the fallout from the pandemic, many more people might need food assistance. Zimbabwe and the UN made a separate plea for US$770 million in humanitarian aid to help the country deal with a drought and COVID-19, and to fund its education and health sectors.
Why It Matters
Ensuring a steady supply of food is crucial during periods of crisis, as a lack of food can create conditions for civil unrest. Lockdown measures to contain COVID-19 work best when communities are willing to cooperate with the authorities and don’t have to be forced, meaning it also depends on public trust in government, which is only possible if people’s basic needs are met. For South Africa, cooperation with the United Nations helps to position the country as a benefactor to its neighbors, conferring diplomatic goodwill and elevating its leadership role during this crisis.