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/ Policy brief

Anticipating the impacts of COVID-19 in humanitarian and food crisis contexts

While the COVID-19 pandemic is devastating lives, public health systems, livelihoods and economies all over the world, populations living in food crisis contexts are particularly exposed to its effects.

Countries with existing humanitarian crises are particularly exposed to the effects of the pandemic, which is already directly affecting food systems through impacts on food supply and demand, and indirectly through decreases in purchasing power, the capacity to produce and distribute food, and the intensification of care tasks, all of which will have differentiated impacts and will more strongly affect the most vulnerable populations. The effects could be even stronger in countries that are already facing exceptional emergencies with direct consequences for the agricultural sectors, such as the ongoing desert locust outbreak in Eastern Africa, the Near East and Southwest Asia.

Lessons learned from previous crises should inform policy and action today. The outbreak of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) in West Africa, the financial crisis of 2007–2008, or other crisis, could serve as an example as they all highlight the need to act quickly and anticipate the collateral effects of the COVID-19 pandemic by devising appropriate policy measures, maintaining and upscaling humanitarian food security interventions, and protecting the livelihoods and food access of the most vulnerable people, particularly those in food crisis contexts.