New report identifies 27 countries heading for COVID-19-driven food crises – FAO and WFP

COVID-19 – Food Security

Press Release
New report identifies 27 countries heading for COVID-19-driven food crises
FAO and WFP collaborate on a unique analysis of countries on the precipice of what could be the worst food crisis in generations
17 July 2020, Rome – New analysis out today by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) identifies 27 countries that are on the frontline of impending COVID-19-driven food crises, as the pandemic’s knock-on effects aggravate pre-existing drivers of hunger.

No world region is immune, from Afghanistan and Bangladesh in Asia, to Haiti, Venezuela and Central America, to Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan and Syria in the Middle East to Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Liberia Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe in Africa.

The joint analysis by FAO and WFP warns these “hotspot countries” are at high risk of – and in some cases are already seeing – significant food security deteriorations in the coming months, including rising numbers of people pushed into acute hunger.

These countries were already grappling with high levels of food insecurity and acute hunger even before COVID-19, due to pre-existing shocks and stressors such as economic crises, instability and insecurity, climate extremes, and, plant pests and animal diseases, noted FAO Director-General QU Dongyu.

“Now they are on the frontline and bearing the brunt of COVID-19’s disruptive effects on food systems, which are fuelling a hunger crisis within a health crisis,” he said, adding: “We must not think of this as a risk that will emerge sometime down the line. We cannot treat this as tomorrow’s problem. We need to do more to safeguard both food systems and our most vulnerable populations – right now.”

Four ways COVID-19 is pushing up acute food insecurity
FAO and WFP say that there are four main ways that COVID-19 is pushing people into deeper hunger:
:: Dropping employment and wages means that people have less money to spend on household food and that overseas workers send to relatives in food insecure countries as remittances. At the same time, food prices are up in many hotspot countries, posing a barrier to food access.

:: A range of disruptions associated with necessary pandemic and health countermeasures are also having significant – and increasing – impacts on food production and supply.

:: Plummeting government revenues mean that critical safety nets such as social protection and school feeding programs are underfunded and unable to respond to growing needs.

:: Finally, the pandemic may contribute to political instability as well as fuelling conflict, for example between communities over natural resources like water or grazing land or migration routes, which further disrupts agricultural production and markets.

Emerging evidence from ongoing FAO surveys in countries with food crises contexts back up today’s joint analysis, indicating that food production is emerging as a serious challenge…

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FAO-WFP early warning analysis of acute food insecurity hotspots
July 2020 :: 25 pages