Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)
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For updates on novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and details on human health, please refer to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Policy tools

FAO has implemented an array of tools to support policy analyses and assess the impact of COVID-19 on food and agriculture, value chains, food prices, food security across the globe.

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.

What is FAO’s role?

Understanding and mitigating the pandemic’s impact on food and agriculture

Understanding and mitigating the pandemic’s impact on food and agriculture

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.

Safeguarding the food security and livelihoods of the most vulnerable

Safeguarding the food security and livelihoods of the most vulnerable

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 the virus’s origin and spread

Understanding the virus’s origin and spread

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.

Ensuring a unified, One Health approach

Ensuring a unified, One Health approach

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.

Key messages

  • The COVID-19 pandemic is a global crisis which is already affecting the food and agriculture sector. Prompt measures to ensure that food supply chains are kept alive, domestically and internationally, to mitigate the risk of large shocks  that would have a considerable impact on everybody, especially on the poor and the most vulnerable.
  • Although disruptions in the food supply chain are minimal so far, challenges have been already experienced in terms of logistics. Food needs to move across borders with no restrictions and in compliance with existing food safety standards.
  • To mitigate the pandemic’s impacts on food and agriculture, FAO urges countries to meet the immediate food needs of their vulnerable populations, boost their social protection programmes, keep global food trade going, keep the domestic supply chain gears moving, and support smallholder farmers’ ability to increase food production.
  • Countries with existing humanitarian crises are particularly exposed to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even as their own domestic needs may be rising as a result of the pandemic, it is critical that donor countries ensure continued delivery of humanitarian assistance where food insecurity is already high. The disease does not recognize borders. If left unchecked in one place, the entire human community remains at risk.
  • Epidemiological tracing indicates the current spread of the pandemic is primarily due to human-to-human transmission.
  • Research into a potential animal origin of the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is ongoing in close collaboration with One Health partners. To date, evidence suggests that certain live animals may play a role in SARS-CoV-2 transmission.
  • Meat from healthy livestock that is cooked thoroughly remains safe to eat. People should not handle, slaughter, dress, sell, prepare or consume meat that originates from sick wild animals or livestock, or from animals that have died from unknown causes. Raw wild meat or uncooked dishes containing the blood of wild animals should not be consumed, as such practices place people at high risk of contracting many types of infections.
  • Any unusual morbidity or mortality of animals should be reported to animal health authorities.

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