The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has found indications that the COVID-19 pandemic is driving up rates of food insecurity across the world, particularly in those that already had an issue.
“The COVID-19 pandemic poses a clear and present danger to food security and nutrition, especially to the world’s most vulnerable communities,” FAO Director-General QU Dongyu said yesterday.
Data from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) initiative found that in Afghanistan, food insecurity has been aggravated by the impact of the pandemic. Latest estimates suggest that 10.3 million people are dealing with crisis levels of acute hunger, or worse.
It’s the same story in the Central African Republic where 2.4 million people are now facing crisis, or worse levels of acute food insecurity. An 11% rise compared with pre-pandemic times has been observed by the IPC. In Somalia, 3.5 million are likely to face a crisis in the coming months, three times the amount projected at the start of 2020.
“We risk a looming food crisis unless measures are taken fast to protect the most vulnerable, keep the global agricultural supply chains alive, and mitigate the pandemic’s impacts across the food system,” the FAO Director-General said.
Women in rural areas are among the most vulnerable and the first to lose their income, Qu noted.
Qu’s message came ahead of the release of a new policy brief by UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, who warned that food systems are failing the world’s most vulnerable and the COVID-19 pandemic was making it far worse. Based on current trends, by 2030 over 840 million will be at risk of, or living in famine.
FAO and other UN agencies are concerned that COVID-19 and its vast impact on economic activity are limiting people’s ability to access food. Two main issues are restricting the cash liquidity of farmers and handicapping farmer’s ability to produce and market food.
Qu said that so far, the need to support livelihoods was largely being ignored by governments.Prior to the pandemic, 135 million people were struggling with acute hunger caused by climate shocks, conflict, and economic downturn. Another 183 million were at risk of being pushed into extreme hunger if another stressor occurred.