COVID-19: Food Security/Nutrition
Global Report on Food Crises – Joint Analysis for Better Decisions
Food Security Information Network
April 2020 :: 240 pages
GRFC 2020 in brief
The data and the analyses in this report were prepared before the global crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic and do not account for its impact on vulnerable people in food-crisis situations.
The Global Report on Food Crises (GRFC) 2020 is the result of a joint, consensus-based assessment of acute food insecurity situations around the world by 16 partner organizations.
At 135 million, the number of people in Crisis or worse (IPC/CH Phase 3 or above) in 2019 was the highest in the four years of the GRFC’s existence. This increase also reflected the inclusion of additional countries and areas within some countries.
When comparing the 50 countries that were in both the 2019 and the 2020 reports, the population in Crisis or worse (IPC/CH Phase 3 or above) rose from 112 to 123 million. This reflected worsening acute food insecurity in key conflict-driven crises, notably the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan and the growing severity of drought and economic shocks as drivers in countries such as Haiti, Pakistan and Zimbabwe.
Around 183 million people in 47 countries were classified in Stressed (IPC/CH Phase 2) conditions, at risk of slipping into Crisis or worse (IPC/CH Phase 3 or above) if confronted by an additional shock or stressor.
An estimated 75 million stunted children were living in the 55 food-crisis countries analysed. These children have limited access to sufficient dietary energy, nutritionally diverse diets, clean drinking water, sanitation and health care, which weakens their health and nutrition status, with dire consequences for their development and long-term productivity.
Drivers of acute food insecurity
Conflict/insecurity was still the main driver of food crises in 2019, but weather extremes and economic shocks became increasingly significant. Over half of the 77 million acutely foodinsecure people in countries where conflict was identified as the primary driver were in the Middle East and Asia. Regional crises continued to see high levels of acute food insecurity, particularly in the Lake Chad Basin and Central Sahel.
Africa had the largest numbers of acutely food-insecure people in need of assistance in countries badly affected by weather events, particularly in the Horn of Africa and Southern Africa, followed by Central America and Pakistan.
In East Africa, armed conflicts, intercommunal violence and other localized tensions continued to affect peace and security, particularly in South Sudan, and continued to maintain large refugee populations in neighbouring countries, such as Uganda.
The report reflects the growing influence of economic crises on acute food insecurity levels, particularly in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Haiti and the Sudan.
An estimated 79 million people remained displaced globally as of mid-2019 – 44 million of them internally displaced and 20 million were refugees under UNHCR’s mandate. More than half of these refugees were hosted in countries with high numbers of acutely food-insecure people. In countries where funding constraints have reduced assistance in refugee camps, refugees’ food security was severely threatened.
-Short-term outlook for 2020
The acute food insecurity forecasts for 2020 were produced before COVID-19 became a pandemic and do not account for its likely impact in food crisis countries.
The combined effects of conflict, macroeconomic crisis, climaterelated shocks and crop pests, including fall armyworm and desert locusts, were likely to ensure that Yemen remained the world’s worst food crisis.
In East Africa, abundant seasonal rains benefitted crops and rangelands, but fostered a severe desert locust outbreak that will likely aggravate acute food insecurity in complex and fragile contexts.
Protracted conflicts will either maintain or increase acute food insecurity levels in parts of Central Africa. In Southern Africa, post-harvest improvements are likely to be short-lived as poor rains, high food prices and unresolved political and economic instability could worsen acute food insecurity levels. Increasing violence, displacements and disrupted agriculture and trade in tandem with adverse climate in West Africa and Sahel countries will worsen acute food insecurity conditions in many areas.
Violent conflict and currency depreciation will drive alarming rates of acute food insecurity and acute malnutrition levels across the most troubled areas of the Middle East and Asia.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, sociopolitical crises, weather extremes, lack of employment and high food prices are likely to lead to deteriorating acute food insecurity in some countries.
The drivers of food crises, as well as lack of access to dietary energy and diversity, safe water, sanitation and health care will continue to create high levels of child malnutrition, while COVID-19 is likely to overburden health systems.
The pandemic may well devastate livelihoods and food security, especially in fragile contexts and particularly for the most vulnerable people working in the informal agricultural and nonagricultural sectors. A global recession will majorly disrupt food supply chains.
Joint Statement on COVID-19 Impacts on Food Security and Nutrition
FAO, IFAD, WFP and the World Bank on the occasion of the Extraordinary G20 Agriculture Minister’s Meeting
WASHINGTON, April 21, 2020— The COVID-19 pandemic has led to dramatic loss of human life across the world and presents an unprecedented challenge with deep social and economic consequences, including compromising food security and nutrition. Responses need to be well coordinated across the world, including by the G20 and beyond, to limit impacts, end the pandemic, and prevent its recurrence.
The pandemic is already affecting the entire food system. Restrictions on movement within and across countries can hinder food-related logistic services, disrupt entire food supply chains and affect the availability of food. Impacts on the movement of agricultural labor and on the supply of inputs will soon pose critical challenges to food production, thus jeopardizing food security for all people, and hit especially hard people living in the poorest countries.
Agriculture and its food-related logistic services should be considered as essential. Increased efforts are needed to ensure that food value chains function well and promote the production and availability of diversified, safe and nutritious food for all. In doing this, it is necessary to give precedence to the health of consumers and workers, adhering to safety measures, such as testing, physical distancing and other hygienic practices.
Currently, the world food market is well supplied and all countries, particularly those with prominent trade shares, need to ensure that it remains a stable, transparent and reliable source of food. During the 2007-08 food price crisis, panic-driven policy responses, such as export bans and rapid escalation in food stock procurement through imports exacerbated market disruptions.
While food supplies were tighter because of weather shocks globally in 2007-08, this behavior stretches the balance between global food supply and demand, increasing price volatility and ultimately contributing to it. These immediate impacts proved extremely damaging for low-income food-import dependent countries, and to the efforts of humanitarian organizations to procure supplies.
Countries need to work together to strengthen cooperation during this pandemic that is affecting all regions of the world. It is important to ensure that policies, such as short-term measures to restrict trade, do not distort global markets.
Collective action is needed to ensure that markets are well-functioning, and that timely and reliable information on market fundamentals is available to all. This will reduce uncertainty and allow producers, consumers, traders and processors to make informed production and trade decisions and contain panic behavior in global markets.
The Agricultural Market Information System – a G20 initiative that combines the expertise of ten International Organizations with the information provided by countries with a high share in world food trade – is monitoring world supply and price developments.
The devastating economic impacts of COVID-19 reinforce the need for investments that prevent future outbreaks of such infectious diseases, recognizing the interconnections between people, animals, plants and their shared environment – the One Health approach. Continued attention is necessary strengthen the resilience of food systems to such disease outbreaks but also to other shocks.
As the pandemic slows down economies, access to food will be negatively affected by income reductions and loss of employment as well as availability of food in local markets. Efforts should focus on supporting access to food for the poor and the vulnerable and those whose income is most affected. Implementing adequate social protection measures, such as cash transfers, and investing in early recovery efforts in response to COVID-19 is critical to saving both lives and livelihoods. Ensuring that these measures reach everyone will be key to avoid further spread of poverty and hunger.
Countries with existing humanitarian crises are particularly exposed to the effects of the pandemic. Its effects could be even stronger in those countries that are already facing exceptional emergencies with direct consequences for agriculture including due to ongoing or emerging conflict and climate shocks or desert locust outbreaks.
The pandemic is likely to have significant repercussions on the delivery of humanitarian and recovery assistance. Maintaining ongoing humanitarian assistance to vulnerable groups and adapting to potential COVID-19 impacts is critical. Investment is needed to accelerate recovery efforts and build resilience of vulnerable populations, coordinating our efforts with all partners including with the UN framework for the immediate socio-economic response to COVID-19.
Decisive collective action is needed now to ensure that this pandemic does not threaten food security and nutrition, and to improve resilience to future shocks. On this, we highlight the 2021 Food Systems Summit as an opportunity to drive transformative action and contribute to the UN Decade of Action to deliver the SDGs by 2030.