Strengthening food production and distribution systems is key to fighting hunger and entails helping tackle diseases wherever they emerge in humans, animals, plants or the environment. The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a global health crisis, and FAO is playing a role in assessing and responding to its potential impacts on people’s life and livelihoods, global food trade, markets, food supply chains and livestock.
FAO believes this will allow countries to anticipate and mitigate possible disruptions the pandemic may trigger for people’s food security and livelihoods, avoiding panic-driven reactions that can aggravate disruptions and deteriorate the food and nutrition security of the most vulnerable.
FAO is working closely with WHO, WFP, IFAD and OIE and other partners, harnessing broad networks to drive further research, support ongoing investigations and share critical knowledge.
FAO COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programme
FAO's comprehensive and holistic COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programme is designed to proactively and sustainably address the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic. In line with the UN approach to “build back better,” and in pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals, it aims to mitigate the immediate impacts of the pandemic while strengthening the long-term resilience of food systems and livelihoods.
The COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programme enables donors to leverage the Organization’s convening power, real-time data, early warning systems and technical expertise to direct support where and when it is needed most. Together, we can help the world’s most vulnerable, prevent further crises, increase resilience to shocks, and accelerate the rebuilding and sustainable transformation of our food systems.
Through extensive analyses, ongoing consultations with decentralized offices and bilateral discussions with resource partners, FAO identified seven key areas of action needed to ensure rapid and continued support to the most vulnerable while anticipating the secondary repercussions of the virus.
Protecting the most vulnerable, promoting economic recovery and enhancing risk management capacities.
Facilitating and accelerating food and agricultural trade during COVID-19 and beyond.
The world’s food systems are under threat. FAO is calling on partners to join together to prevent a global food emergency.
Strengthening and extending the One Health approach to avert animal-origin pandemics.
Addressing the impacts of COVID-19 and safeguarding livelihoods in food-crisis contexts.
Ensuring quality data and analysis for effective policy support to food-systems and Zero Hunger.
What is FAO’s role?
With the aim of providing decision makers across the world with sound information on policy measures to keep food systems alive, FAO is:
- Analyzing how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the food and agriculture sector. The analysis will help delineate, by geographic regions, the degrees of countries’ exposure to the shock the pandemic has caused. Based on the results of this analysis, a country taxonomy of the exposure will be developed and constantly updated.
- Producing a series of technical and policy briefs presenting a quantitative and qualitative assessment of the pandemic’s impacts on livelihoods, food and agriculture, markets as well as on poverty and nutrition.
- Conducting – through its Data Lab and the use of Big Data, text scraping and artificial intelligence – a global assessment that identifies and tracks policy responses countries adopted during past crises. Practices and policy responses are collected and constantly updated in the FAO policy platform, which classifies them into six primary thematic areas: Emergencies, Nutrition, Trade, Social Protection, Development and transformation, and Incentives and disincentives.
- Using its Food and Agriculture Policy Decisions Analysis (FAPDA) database to offer an overview of current policy decisions that Member Countries are adopting to mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on food and agricultural systems.
FAO is reorganizing its humanitarian and resilience programming to ensure continued delivery of assistance where there are already high levels of need while meeting new needs emerging from the direct and indirect effects of COVID-19.
We are ramping up our field program to:
- Provide smallholder farmers and herders with seeds, tools, livestock feed and other agricultural inputs, along with animal health support, so they can continue to generate income and produce food for their families and communities;
- In communities where undernutrition and poverty are prevalent, distribute seeds and home gardening kits, food storage systems, and poultry and other small stock to improve household nutrition and diversify incomes. Similar activities will be undertaken in camps for refugees and the displaced;
- Everywhere we work, access to food will be stabilized by supporting people’s purchasing power through injections of cash (unconditional, or cash-for-work where feasible and appropriate), so that affected families can meet critical household needs without selling off key assets. We are working with governments to scale up social protection systems, especially in difficult-to-access rural areas.
Understanding how the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) emerged and spreads constitutes an important part of FAO’s capacity to contribute to efforts to prevent, contain and mitigate the pandemic. Other coronavirus outbreaks, including SARS-CoV-1 and MERS-CoV, were found to have an origin in animals. While presumed ancestor viruses have been detected in bats, the direct source of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has not been confirmed to date. The Joint FAO and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Centre of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture is working, through its veterinary laboratory network in 69 countries, to support diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2 in animals and monitoring of virus contamination in the environment. Within FAO’s COVID-19 Recovery and Response Programme, several projects are already in place as part of Preventing the Next Zoonotic Pandemic (PNP), that help countries to better prevent and mitigate risks related to SARS-CoV-2 at the animal-human interface and build national capacities in pandemic preparedness.
By coordinating actions and facilitating information sharing, FAO supports countries in preparedness and response, prevention of food systems disruption, and appropriate risk mitigation with a One Health approach. FAO provides diagnostic equipment and training to laboratories, equips farmers and animal health workers with guidelines and conducts assessments, such as the risk of animal exposure with the support of specialist networks.
Recent evidence suggests that farmed minks may contribute to the genetic evolution and spread of COVID-19 within fur farming systems. While assessments of SARS-CoV-2 transmission at the animal-human interface continue, general advice remains to use hygienic best practices when interacting with domesticated animals to minimize the risk of potential spillovers of the novel coronavirus and other zoonotic threats.
The One Health approach means recognizing the connection between humans, animals, plants, and their shared environments in an integrated effort to reduce disease and pest threats and ensure safe food supply. It is well known that diseases circulate in animals and the environment, some of which can spill over and affect human health. FAO works continually to support countries to prevent, detect and control diseases and related health threats wherever they emerge. This includes monitoring the emergence of antimicrobial resistance as well as active programmes to combat and eradicate animal diseases such as peste des petits ruminants and African swine fever, as well as diseases that pass from animals to humans including avian influenza and rabies.
The interconnectivity of humans, animals and the environment is relevant in fighting any threat to food systems, agricultural production and livelihoods. This focus is particularly important in rural farming communities where animals provide transport, fuel and clothing as well as food. Embracing this challenge, FAO works with many partners, including WHO and OIE, to deploy a One Health approach locally and globally, with a special focus on bolstering capacities where needed and protecting the most vulnerable communities.
“Our ability to act,
in our shared best interest and for greater collective impact, has never been more important.”
- FAOLEX Database: COVID-19 Related Measures
- COVID-19 and Urban food systems
- Policy Support and Governance
- Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture
- Animal Health
- FAO emergencies and resilience
- Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS)
- Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS)
- Tracker of trade from WTO
- IMF tracker on financial issues
- OECD tracker
- Publication: COVID-19 and Pacific food system resilience: opportunities to build a robust response
- How Covid-19 is changing the world: a statistical perspective (Vol. I, Vol. II & Vol. III)
- WHO: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak
- WHO: Advice for the public
- WHO: Situation report
- WHO: FAQs on coronavirus
- UN: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)