Food Coalition

Addressing the impacts of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in food crises

The world is standing on the precipice of the greatest food crisis in generations. Worldwide, people and their communities are reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which extend far beyond the direct health impacts.

Food systems have been disrupted, informal employment all but stopped for millions, markets have closed and remittances have dried up and the most vulnerable have found themselves struggling to access sufficient food. Increasingly, as smallholders are unable to access the critical inputs they need to continue producing, food availability is emerging as a major concern. In South Sudan, for example, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ (FAO’s) latest data indicates a drop of between 10 and 25 percent in the main season cereal production this year and an additional 1.6 million people are expected to be pushed into acute hunger.

Conflict, weather extremes and pre-existing economic turbulence continue to push more people into acute hunger, exacerbated by the reverberations of the pandemic. The worst-case scenario of famine is inching closer to reality for millions of girls, boys, women and men, especially for the 27 million people that were already experiencing emergency levels of acute hunger before the pandemic.

Women have been particularly hard hit. They make up a large majority of informal workers in food production, processing and sales, and overwhelmingly bear the burden of caring for family members and ensuring their health and nutrition. In some food crisis contexts, many families are de facto headed by women, as men have migrated in search of employment. These women rely on remittances that have almost completely stopped during the pandemic. They also face numerous protection risks, including greater exposure to gender-based violence.

The impacts on food systems vary depending on the timing of restrictions in relation to agricultural and transhumance calendars. In the last few months, vital opportunities have been missed as planting seasons passed or market closures have resulted in significant food loss. Recent Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analyses point to a worrying deterioration. The Sudan has recorded its highest ever number of people experiencing crisis or worse levels of acute food insecurity, at 9.6 million people between July and September 2020. In Somalia, the numbers in crisis or worse are expected to almost triple compared with pre-COVID-19 estimates, while in Burkina Faso, the effects of COVID-19 are expected to cause a deterioration from stressed to crisis phases of acute malnutrition in six provinces for April to July. However, we can avert further deterioration. It is not too late to act to safeguard livelihoods; rather, protecting livelihoods is the most cost-effective way to avert a rise in acute hunger, protect development gains and lay the foundations for recovery.

Priority Areas of work: Global Humanitarian Response Plan
SDG: 1. No Poverty, 2. Zero Hunger, 5. Gender Equality, 16. Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Level: Global
Budget: USD 428 million

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